Assignment: Education – West Salem High School teaches welding as an art

Creativity is important in art.

“It’s cool to use your imagination,” said West Salem High School sophomore Hunter Komay.

It’s a big part of a recently added metal art class at West Salem High School.

“I’ve completed a flame coloring project, two different leaf projects and a flame coloring leaf project,” said Komay.

Students use their artistic abilities to saw, sand and bend metal to create their masterpieces.

“It’s an idea that I got from Western Tech College,” said West Salem High School technology and engineering teacher Paul Liethen.

But the unique idea didn’t come from an art class.

“We took a bunch of kids there a few years ago to look at their welding program,” said Liethen.

Teachers found that students were required to create art in their welding class to encourage fabrication techniques and outside-the-box thinking.

So for the past three years, Liethen has been working with potential artists and welders to strengthen their skills using the same classroom lessons.

“We get all types of students,” said Liethen. “Students that maybe have an art focus. This might be a class that they’re stretching their boundaries a little bit, and we also have students, like Hunter Komay, who is ultimately looking to maybe be a welder someday.”

“It’s definitely grown my knowledge of what’s out there as a career field,” said Komay.

It’s also breaking down stereotypes.

“They help each other out,” said Liethen.

“It’s one of those things that people think only a certain type of person like to do or just small group of people that only like to weld,” said Komay.

This class is proving those theories wrong while teaching an important technique.

“It is truly an art form whether you’re welding on a flower or a bridge,” said Liethen.

Liethen says several students have gone on to have good-paying jobs in the welding industry.

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