Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Kind Words

~ excerpted from a letter by Sarah Swartz (proprietor of Swartz Family Farm and owner of the site for Shedding Light)

Last spring my husband and I were approached by the Town of Amherst’s Public Art Commission to see if we would be interested in letting them find a way to “light up” our tobacco shed that faces Rt. 116 for “a few nights” as a part of the Town’s 250’s Celebration. They would use “green energy.” The vent doors would all be left open in order to let the light run out down onto the twilight [winter] snow. They would take pictures.

This particular art proposal means so much to us because it reinforces the special place agriculture has in the history of the Town of Amherst and also the importance our fourth generation family farm has played in that history. This project commemorates the town’s 250th anniversary. The town’s seal is that of the book and the plow. The book is evident in Amherst’s everyday “five college bustle.” I believe that our citizens need to be reminded of the importance of the plow.

Four generations ago our family laughed and sweated and dreamed in that barn. I would so like so sit behind it, under a cold starry sky and see the warm light spill out onto the blue snow and watch reflected back at me the new faces who come to see my beautiful barn all dressed up for the first time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shedding Light Project Schedule

Shedding Light will come to life in December 2009. In the darkest month of the year, it's cold, there might be snow on the ground. Imagine a long, wooden barn sitting alone in a vast field. Each night as the sun goes down, the lights come on and shine out onto the landscape like a lantern.

Present - December 2008
Project design and fund raising

February 2009
Installation testing

February 2009 - December 2009
Refinement of design
Project fund raising continues

December 2009
Project installation and viewing
Exhibits and Lectures

Being Green

Among the many ideas influencing Shedding Light is that family farms are in jeopardy. Far Shed has been standing for nearly 200 years and, while it's in no danger of falling down just yet, it could use a little love and updating to make it more functional for a wider array of uses.

Thanks to a brilliant idea by Amherst Public Art Commission Chair, Terry Rooney, Shedding Light proposes to use a photovoltaic array (solar panels) to offset the energy consumed by the lighting the barn for the month of December 2009. Terry came up with the idea to use solar energy to light the barn in honor of our sustainable Amherst community. While the project is temporary (only lasting a month), the pv system will remain on the farm to help offset the cost of electricity for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Collaborators

This project would not be possible without the contributions of ideas and expertise of many individuals and organizations.

Most significantly, Swartz Family Farms has offered their "Far Shed" for the project. They have my eternal, heartfelt appreciation for their donation.

Also vital to the success of this project is the Town of Amherst (especially Town Manager Larry Shaffer and Terry Rooney of the Amherst Public Art Commission). They have embraced the idea of Shedding Light and I am working with them to clear the way for the project.

I would also like to acknowledge the participation of University of Massachusetts Amherst and Professor Dr. David Damery Director Building Materials and Wood Technology in the Dept. of Natural Resources Conservation. In addition to providing expertise on alternative energies, Dr. Damery is involving his students in the design of the photovoltaic array that will provide power to the lights.

wunderarts, a fabulous contemporary art gallery in Amherst, has invited Shedding Light to exhibit images of the installation and will host film and lectures in December 2009.

Theatrix of Belchertown, MA has provided lighting design consultation.

Since the project will only exist for a month, it will have a second life on film. I have also started discussing the project with award winning documentary filmmaker Kate Geis.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shedding Light Project Statement

As an architect, I’m always very interested in the landscape and the vernacular of regional buildings. So when I moved out to western Massachusetts a few years ago and I saw the tobacco sheds for the first time, I was immediately struck by their inherent beauty. Learning that farming in general (but tobacco farming in particular) is an important and unique aspect of the region’s history, but that it’s a dying practice has made it that much more interesting for me.

My proposal is relatively simple: To fill a tobacco barn with lights, open the ventilation panels and just let the light shine out onto the landscape. We will essentially be creating a beautiful lantern. This lantern will highlight the value of Amherst’s farming community in conjunction with Amherst’s 250th Celebration.

The working title is Shedding Light – As with much of my work, the idea is to call attention to the environment (both built and unbuilt) and create a forum for the questions that arise as a result of the work. In this case I am calling attention to the role of public art in the community, beauty of the barn, to the special quality of the tobacco that’s grown here, to the disappearance of the farmer for all the various reasons, to the risk of smoking… And while light has been used in very literal ways to illuminate both objects and issues; with Shedding Light, illumination itself is the object of attention. What is the power of art to connect us to our landscapes, both cultural and physical?

Due to the temporary nature of Shedding Light this project also calls for a series of photographs or film to document the work. As well, complimentary programming such as an exhibit of photographs or film at wunderarts gallery, a collection of oral histories from Amherst’s farming community and lectures should also be explored. Partnerships with local academic experts and students in various fields are most welcome.

To honor the awareness and sensitivity in the Amherst community towards a sustainable future for both its landscape and its residents, I propose that this project should be supported by alternative energy sources (this could mean a photovoltaic array or a windmill powering the lights inside the barn). And while the lighting of the shed is a temporary feature, the sustainable energy source will be left behind to help power the farm for decades to come. This will be both a visible legacy of the significance of Amherst’s 250th birthday as well as an exciting hint at the direction that regional agriculture might take in the future.