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Art Students Document Life of Power Plant and its Workers in “Across the Bridge” Project

Michelle Behre '14
Michelle Behre '14

Footprint Power’s Salem Harbor Station in Salem, MA will open June 16 - July 2 for a public exhibition of experience-based art projects created by Montserrat College of Art students, inspired by and produced in collaboration with workers at the Salem Harbor Station power plant, located at 24 Fort Ave. Salem, MA.

 

This first-of-its-kind project, “Across the Bridge,” is the result of a unique partnership between Montserrat College of Art and Footprint Power, whose primary goal was to honor and document the lives and work of the power plant employees, most of whom will lose their jobs and move on to other opportunities when the coal plant closes this summer. 

 

According to Montserrat Academic Dean Laura Tonelli, the project dovetailed perfectly with a campus initiative to expand learning beyond the traditional classroom through collaborative, interdisciplinary projects with businesses and community organizations.  In April of this year, the initiative, called StudioXL (Studio for Experiential Learning), received funding from the Davis Educational Foundation.

 

The documentary project was conducted by 29 Montserrat students and four faculty (Ethan Berry, Rebecca Bourgault, Dawn Paul, and project coordinator Elizabeth Cohen) in collaboration with the plant employees.  The project and exhibition are funded by Footprint Power. 

 

“It is a difficult thing to convey the tremendous and sometimes heroic lengths to which our staff has gone in operating this plant to safely and reliably provide power to the North Shore,” remarked Footprint Power CEO Peter Furniss.  “We are grateful for this opportunity to work with such a talented group of artists to begin to capture the beauty and power of Salem Harbor Station and the team that has made it work.”

 

There are about 100 employees of Footprint Power, some of whom have worked at the plant for 40-45 years. The plant, which has been operating on coal and oil since it was built in the 1950s, will be decommissioned this summer and will be replaced with gas-fired power generating equipment using more efficient “combined-cycle” technology.

 

“Across the Bridge” will include a variety of media: photography and video, drawings, paintings, poetry, sculpture and installations.  It will be exhibited in the turbine hall – a unique industrial space never previously opened to the public. In addition, there will be an opportunity to see portions of the power plant itself, with mini-tours of the vintage operating equipment and control room.

 

Montserrat College of Art’s Improbable Places Poetry Tour will hold a poetry reading on the theme “power of work/work of power” July 2nd, 7-9 pm. More information on submitting or registering to attend is online at www.montserrat.edu/blog/category/improbable-places-poetry-tour.

 

Workers from the plant, and Montserrat College of Art students who have created the works on view, will serve as guides during the exhibition.

 

The exhibition will be on display June 16-July 2; Tuesday and Wednesday, 1-5 pm; Thursdays, 3-7 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 2-6 pm at 24 Fort Ave. Salem, MA.

 

The exhibit is free and open to the public but pre-registration is required. Please email ArtandPower@FootprintSalemHarbor.com  and include the name(s) of those attending and the date you would like to attend.  Please note that you will be required to produce a valid photo ID to enter the site.

 

Montserrat College of Art is a small, private residential college of visual art and design, founded in 1970, by artists, for artists, educating the creative problem solvers of tomorrow.  The college offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, continuing education classes and four galleries exhibiting work by international, national and regional contemporary artists, intended to offer art education beyond the Montserrat classrooms through a series of public lectures, gallery talks, catalogues and events.  www.montserrat.edu

 

Footprint Power LLC is an independent power producer that works with existing owners, host communities, workers and other stakeholders in older coal- and oil-fired power plants that are approaching the end of their useful life in order to transition these facilities and sites to other productive purposes.  www.footprintpower.com

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