History of a Fine Foundry

Four veteran crew members of Dick Polich’s distinguished fine art foundry arrived on campus Sunday, Nov. 2 to discuss their experiences and answer questions to a packed crowd of art enthusiasts in SUB 62/63.

John and Wendy Gilvey, Thom Joyce and Morgan Donohue have all worked at the Tallix Foundry for years, and had many stories to tell after being introduced by Samuel Dorsky Museum Curator Daniel Belasco.

Polich, a master in metallurgy and engineering, founded the Tallix Foundry in 1968 inside a garage in Nelsonville, New York.  Over the years, more artists caught on to what the foundry could create for them, and that garage turned into an 85,000 square foot facility in Beacon, New York.  The foundry creates artworks out of metal and other materials for artists, and has created works for high-profile artists such as Jeff Koons, Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns.

John and Wendy Gilvey, now married and still working at the foundry, met at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and were not sure what to do after graduating and moving out of the city.

Wendy Gilvey saw a flyer for Polich’s art foundry, which she said read, “Art background helpful, not necessary.”  She applied and became the first full-time employee at the foundry.

Wendy Gilvey worked with wax to create molds and also worked with metal chasing and patina, a process of coating materials to prevent them from being damaged.

“Wendy told me about this foundry and told me that I should get a job,” John Gilvey said.  “I said, ‘Well things are going pretty well without me having a job’, but she insisted, so Dick hired me to help with finishing metal.”

John and Wendy Gilvey have now been working at the foundry for over 30 years.

Joyce never expected to work for Polich at the foundry as a career.

“I had no art experience other than hanging out at the art department where all the other hippies hung out,” Joyce said.  “I came in to tallix to practice welding.”

In the mid-1970s, Joyce initially planned on practicing welding at the tallix so he could go work on an assembly line, but Polich convinced him to stick around.

Donohue started as a photographer and took pictures of the foundry one day.  Donohue applied for a job at the tallix since he wanted to learn sculpture, and in 1984 Polich “hired someone with no experience.”  Donohue has been working at the Foundry for 28 years, mostly doing sand molding.

Although Polich was great to his employees and laid back, he did not accept anything that wasn’t perfect.

“Dick inspired us to reach a certain level of perfection,” John Gilvey said.  “If we thought it was okay, we’d have to make it a little better.”

According to Gilvey, he would always find imperfections in the projects that everyone else missed.

“He’s the ultimate problem-solver,” John Gilvey said.  “If there isn’t a problem, he’ll find one, and then we’ll work on solving it.  Every time we accomplished something, there was a mile of things we had not yet accomplished.”

Joyce also emphasized the perfection that Polich instilled in the team as something that was very important to their process.

“If you mess up on the mold, the wax is gonna have a problem; if you mess up on the wax, the shell is gonna have a problem,” Joyce said.  “If you make a mistake in the beginning, it multiplies later in the process, so everyone has to have that level of perfection.”

All of the speakers agreed that the foundry was a team effort, that nobody was truly alone in their efforts on a project.

“We are all connected and know each other,” Donohue said.  “We all help each other with our own works.  It’s a strange situation, but a great one.”

At the end of the event, Polich stood up from his front-row seat to answer a question about metals.  After extensively answering the question, Polich thanked everyone in attendance for coming, and thanked his loyal employees for their hard work.