Yardie Interviews

Anna Shapiro is an artist and catalyst; sculptor, designer and teacher. She is an interdisciplinary artist concerned with the connections between social and ecological issues as expressed in common materials. She has received awards and residencies for her sculptures and installations, spoken on panels about Chinese iron casting in relationship to five-element medicine and has spoken on panels about ecofeminism. Anna is known as the “wavelady” for her ongoing activities and performances of “making waves”. She is currently investigating all things crafted from metal, specifically molten metal. She has taught welding and iron casting at the Steel Yard. Her activist side is expressed with an open source-knitting pattern of an oil slick she developed in response to ongoing ecological disasters, most recently presented at the RISD museum. Anna has also catalyzed many creative industries in Boston and Rhode Island from art spaces and festivals to alternative grocery stores. Her studio is in Providence RI.


Anna Shapiro Interview Photo

                                Anna Shapiro -  Artist and catalyst

                                Hometown - NYC

                                Favorite Food - Popcorn

                                Biggest Pet Peeve - When people are not nice to each other  


Sparkie: Hi Anna, how are you?

Anna: I’m doing great, thank you 

Sparkie: Let me start by asking you, I know, you recently left the Steel Yard Board of Directors, when was it that you decided to see the Steel Yard from a different perspective?

Anna: Well, I’ve seen the Steel Yard through many different lenses.  I came here; I think it was 2003 or 2004, for a different project all together.  There was a group here called PIPS: Providence Initiative for Psychogeographic Studies, and that’s what brought me to the Steel Yard in the First place.  From there, I took Howie’s first weekend welding class.  Then I took Lu’s, first blacksmithing class and I started welding and blacksmithing, making sculptures.   It was the first time I’ve ever done metalwork.  That was almost ten years ago. Then I got involved with Public Projects for many years and I taught for many years. I got involved in iron casting at the recommendation of Sarah Clover, then an instructor at the Steel Yard.  She recommended that I go to an iron-casting workshop at Salem Art Works in upstate NY.  That was the first time I had ever cast any metal and I was hooked by the process of making sand molds.

 Anna Shapiro Interview

I loved the hands on teamwork that pouring molten iron involved. When I joined the Board I felt like I had a unique perspective to offer and that’s why I joined. At this point the site has changed a lot, it has undergone this amazing remediation, classes are in full swing, there is a growing staff and we have an awesome foundry pad in use.  Now it is time for me to focus on my own work as an independent artist.  I have an outdoor sculpture show coming up in March, which I’m very exited about.   One of my primary goals as a Board member was to assist with the development of the Foundry and do a lot of outreach to communities, nationally and internationally that do iron casting.  Having made those connections, they are available to the Steel Yard to let people in the outside world know about what we do. The Steel Yard is ready to begin doing outreach and making connections with those people.  That’s really gratifying.

Sparkie:  Can you share with us your experience being at The Steel Yard?

Anna: My first experience was the incredible community; where there was a lot of positivity and a lot of yes. You would ask a question and the answer would regularly be yes. This was the incredible atmosphere and the incredible community that was bonded here and that has continued. 

Sparkie:  If you were to pick one thing you loved the most about the Steel Yard, what would that be?

Anna: The limitless possibilities you have here, you have an incredible site that has the faculty to make huge scale things happened, is the scale and the possibility and the physical ability to make things happen.  It takes is some vision to really make it work.

Sparkie: Very interesting, I love the way you phrased it, very beautiful.

Anna:  Thank you, it’s amazing, you look at the people who come here, and they are like “ wow, look at this, they are making volcano’s on the hill!”  Where else can you do that!

Sparkie: If you were to send a message, what would that message be? As a former Board member, what would like to see happen in the future of The Steel Yard?

Anna:  What I would like to see happen, is what has already started to happen since the remediation.  We are not confined to metalworking exclusively; of course we have this core that is metalworking, teaching metalworking as a hobby, teaching metalworking as a skill, getting people into metalworking as a means to make their own income. Metal is more like a metaphor, what’s your meddle?  What’s your strength?  What’s your force? It can happen here. 

Sparkie: What’s next for Anna?

Anna:  My plan is to stay involved as much as possible.  I have centered my life around this place. I will continue making metalwork, continue to be available in whatever way seems most appropriate: as somebody who can connect to other communities, as somebody who can teach to this community, as somebody who can work really hard to make things happen, as an advocate, as teacher, an artist. 




Anna Shapiro Interview Photo