Beauty and art may not be the first words that come to mind when thinking about welding, generally seen as an industrial field. But students from Northcentral Technical College’s (NTC) Alternative High School recently completed a project using welding to create a stunning sculpture for the Center for the Visual Arts.

Last spring, staff at the Center for the Visual Arts met with NTC instructor Veronica Hope in search of art and seating for their Outdoor Learning Studio. Veronica had previously done projects for Monk Botanical Gardens with alternative high school students, and she was excited by the opportunity. The Center for the Visual Arts received a grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin to fund the project. 

While the project would be a sculpture, a piece of art to add to the ambience of the outdoor space, the Center for the Visual Arts was also looking to add seating, so Veronica wanted the sculpture to be functional as well. 

Alternative High School welding students began working on the project this spring. The first step was to cut the large panels for the piece, but the lasers at NTC were too small for the task. Veronica was telling Dan Apfelbeck, an adjunct instructor, about the project, and he had an idea. 

Dan also works as a quality/manufacturing engineer at ADC Equipment Innovations. He asked the operations manager if they could help, and he was all for it. Initially, the plan was just to donate laser time so the pieces could be cut. 

“After understanding it was high school students that probably didn’t have the experience to handle the larger parts, I decided to ask if our guys would volunteer and help out with the main assembly,” Dan said. 

When he asked if anyone would be interested in coming in and helping the students with the project, he was surprised at how many of them were willing to come in on their day off to lend a hand. The ones that had prior engagements were even a little bit upset they couldn’t make it. 

“They thought it was a great idea,” Dan said. “We have a great group of people at ADC.” 

Veronica Hope standing with Welding students, gesturing and looking at something off-camera


Now that they had a space to cut the pieces, Veronica and her students were able to get to work. They headed over to ADC Equipment Innovations on a Friday morning in early April. Many hands make light work, and they were able to get a large portion of the sculpture completed. 

The high school students were able to work closely with ADC employees to get hands-on experience. 

“The students really valued every minute of it,” Veronica said. ‘They were so engaged. Some of them didn’t have any welding background and were still willing to jump in and give it a try.” 

Veronica said the goal of the project was to expose the students to a variety of different manufacturing processes while also creating art. She also said that since they are high school students, it’s a good opportunity to introduce a pathway to a profession they may not have considered. 

“I really like the idea that you can introduce people to this trade in a different way other than taking intro to welding,” she said. “It’s really cool that we can do it through a community project like this.” 

Dan said it was also a great experience for the employees at ADC Equipment Innovations. 

“I never knew we had so many teachers at work,” he said. “They were taking the students under their wing, showing them how to weld, letting them weld. It was a really neat experience.” 

He said he hopes ADC Equipment Innovations can work on more projects like this in the future.

“We want to be involved in the community and help out as much as possible,” Dan said.  “This was the first of hopefully many more opportunities.” 

An ADC Equipment Innovations employee wearing a welding mask and gloves welds a large panel for NTC students


The students, instructors, employees at ADC Equipment Innovations, family, friends, and the community were invited to the unveiling of the sculpture at the Center for the Visual Arts Friday evening, May 10. 

Veronica said it was so cool to see how proud both the students and the fabricators from ADC Equipment Innovations were of the piece. 

“To see the ADC welders and the alternative high school students and the [Center for the Visual Arts] staff all interacting around the pieces was just amazing,” she said. “It was my favorite day of this year.”