For Can Tran, welding is more than simply joining two pieces of metal – it’s an art form.


The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith graduate and Fort Smith resident found a unique platform for his art when he returned to school in 2015 to pursue an associate degree in welding. When Tran welded together a picture frame for a class project, he took it a step further.


“I thought, ‘Why don’t we put something in the frame?’” Tran said.


Tran, a lover of art, saw an opportunity to create something unique with the welding equipment at his disposal. He rolled together thin pieces of steel to form a flower, which he welded inside the frame.


After that, he was hooked.


“In my years working at Rheem I always enjoyed welding small images,” he said. “I always saw that welding was more than putting two pieces of metal together and it could be used to create complex images. After graduating from UAFS, I reached the age of retirement, and decided to continue to use my welding skills to create images because it was enjoyable for me to do.”


Since then, Tran has created 11 artworks with welding equipment at the university. He’s recreated UAFS and other athletic logos, portraits of presidents, and landscapes. One landscape work Tran completed, depicting a tropical sunset from his native country of Vietnam, includes a fusion of different art and welding techniques such as painting and TIG and MIG welding.


Tran continues to create his work in the welding laboratory at UAFS, made available to him by welding instructors even after he graduated with his associate degree in welding in 2017. This degree marked his second credential from UAFS following a degree in machine technology from the university in the ‘80s when it was still Westark College.


After that, he worked at Rheem for 40 years before returning to school to earn his welding degree. In addition to graduating, he also retired in 2017.


Tran does not sell his creations. Instead, he gives them out as souvenirs to his friends and welding instructors.


“These are souvenirs for myself and my life,” he said. “To people, welding is viewed as hard work. But it’s also art. It’s fun to create artwork through welding.”