116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Molly Mason has made it. She works in her Long Island, N.Y., studio, creating huge art sculptures for public display throughout the United States. She has been lauded for her creativity and skill. Her works will last for decades, if not centuries.
And, like anyone who succeeds, Molly remembers where it began some 35 years ago at Cedar Rapids Washington High School and the University of Iowa. So, this week, Molly, 57, returns to the corridor for three reasons - mentoring, money and making art.
Molly will mentor students at the university with a public lecture Tuesday evening and sessions during the week.
Molly will raise money for flood damaged art facilities - the UI Museum of Art and the UI School of Art and Art History.
Molly will promote making art at the new Ceramics Center in Cedar Rapids.
“I hope we can raise a few thousand dollars,” Molly says. “I hope we can do a little bit of good.”
The centerpiece of Molly's visit is Friday night's public fundraising reception at her double-fountain stainless steel and stained glass sculpture, “Before the Sun Speaks” at Kirkwood Community College's new Center for Continuing Education.
That's where I met Molly, last March, as she installed the 14-foot tall sculpture and multiple halogen lights that magnificently illuminate the striations in the steel and the colors of the glass.
Forget the fact creating this sculpture required some 2,500 hours and the lifting of 100-pound pieces of steel by this 5-foot-7, 115-pound woman. She preferred to talk about the delicate balance of art and nature, the fascination she has with shapes and her connection to Cedar Rapids as a sixth generation Czech.
Molly's bent for three-dimensional art began when she picked up scraps of wood from projects her late father, chiropractor Robert Mason, created at home.
Her interest continued into clay and eventually to the stainless steel, aluminum, bronze and stained glass she prefers to work with today.
From the ‘70s into the ‘80s Molly worked in ceramics with a stint teaching it at the University of California in Davis. She loves working with clay, how it is so responsive to the artist's hands and tools, which is why she also wants to raise money for the Ceramics Center.
“It will be great for our students to see a working artist,” says center director Ben Jensen. “The more they can see, the more it opens their minds to what they can do.”
The Ceramics Center opened in August with 6,000 square feet of space in the Cherry Building after being flooded out of its former location in northwest Cedar Rapids.
“Every student who comes here has really enjoyed it,” Ben says, gazing from the hardwood floors to the floor-to-ceiling windows to the open steel rafters. “It's such a creative building already, full of artists.”
“This is like a dream come true for potters, absolutely,” says Karla Rossow of Cedar Rapids as she installs handles on a series of ceramic mugs.
The only reason Molly veered from ceramics was its fragility. She had begun producing large pieces, maybe 10 feet tall with 100 or so elements, and would be heartbroken when it would break in transit to a show.
“I wanted to do large scale public work that's out there,” Molly says. “That shows what I can do.”
“Before the Sun Speaks” at Kirkwood accomplishes that goal and, with this week's appearances, hopefully more.