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Posts from the ‘Locations’ Category

Mills and Dams – The Bernat Mill

Chris, my wife, remembers going to the Bernat Mill store in Uxbridge, Massachusetts to buy yarn.  She certainly isn’t alone.  If you were into knitting, that was what you did in this area.  At one point, the mill was the third largest yarn mill in the U.S.  (Note, the brand still exists and is in use by another yarn manufacturer, Bernat.)  The mill itself had a long and exemplary career in the Blackstone River Valley.  The first iteration of the Mill was built there in 1820 by John Capron.  Why that location?  Falling water.   This is the current dam along the Mumford River that creates Capron Pond.  It’s quite a lovely place with a very nice park, a nice place to think, or have a picnic.

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Capron evolved to the Backman Uxbridge Worsted Company.  They were the first manufacturers to utilize power loops in the U.S., a staggering change moving the industrial revolution forward.  Their ability to engage in mass production doubtlessly lead to their ability to land contracts for the production of Civil War uniforms, World War One Khakis and World War Two U.S. Army uniforms.  Those familiar with the U.S. Air Force dress blue uniform can take note, it was probably manufactured in that mill.  That blue was chosen from the Backman Uxbridge catalogue.

As it did with so many large manufacturers in the Valley, the bust stormed into town in the form of international competition, technological change and an aging plant.   In 1964 the assets were sold to the Bernat Company which refocused the mill on yarns.  As manufacturing declined, the mill was repurposed over time in what was actually a very successful conversion.  The class mill repurposing involves creating small spaces for retail, office and creative studios.  They must have worked quite hard on the conversion because by the night of July 21, 2007, something like 400,000 square feet which had been devoted to manufacture was productively employed by numerous small businesses.  Hundreds were employed there.  Unfortunately, that night and for several subsequent days the mill burned.

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Hundreds of firefighters fought the blaze.  The complex was almost completely destroyed.  Most of the businesses, worth millions, were lost.  There are I would stress still a number of businesses remaining in a portion of the mill complex, but nothing like the number there prior to the fire.

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The damage is still stunningly visible.  Government on several levels planned to help but those plans seem to have floundered.  This is of course not the first mill to burn in the Blackstone Valley.  Many of those mills absorbed a century or more of a variety of chemicals.  Some thought the fire at the Bernat Mill was almost inevitable.  The bust of an economic surge, particularly one that lasted as long as large scale manufacturing in the Blackstone Valley is extraordinarily difficult to manage.  These were very big businesses, not just for their time, but for any time.

“Under the Highway” at ArtsWorcester – Hanover Theater

I want to give a major thanks to ArtsWorcester, the cultural hub for emerging artists in Central Massachusetts, for the opportunity to present a solo exhibition of my work in the Franklin Square Gallery at the Hanover Center.  I’ve posted about the exhibition, “Under the Highway:  Blackstone River Landscapes,” recently but the opening was held on the evening of June 27th.  It was a terrific evening bringing together a wonderful combination of folks interested in the arts and the environment.  In particular, I want to thank Juliet Feibel, Executive Director who took the chance on staging the exhibition and guided everything from start to finish, Kate Rasche, Program Manager who got it done in the trenches, Tim Johnson, Art Preparator who hung the exhibition and Alice Dillon from Clark University who wrote a nice piece on the exhibition for visitors who stop by over the next four months.  The hanging of an exhibition as many of you probably know is an art in and of itself.   If the exhibition is not properly hung, including aesthetically hung, the individual pieces of art lose much of their impact.  It’s very hard work to hang an exhibition.  I know my limitations and Tim will never get any competition from me.

Typically, it’s helpful to get your name in the paper, though these days I’m not always so sure.  But there were two nice pieces in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, pre and post opening.  Press and pictures from the Opening can be seen at that link.  Nancy Sheehan from the Telegram also wrote her very interesting take on the exhibition which she titled, “What nature has given us” which you can also check out by clicking on the link.  Thanks to the Telegram for supporting the arts with their coverage.

I have to throw in a another more general plug for ArtsWorcester.  As a business person for too many years, my eyes and ears are always assessing how a business is run.  Do they know what they are trying to do and do they provide a well orchestrated operation for getting it done.  ArtsWorcester gets high marks on all counts even though they are not a large organization.  I’ve worked with quite a few galleries over the years, and many of them are pretty shaky on both mission and execution.  As some of you may also know, ArtsWorcester has just had a very successful fund raising campaign in a very short period of time.  When donors are willing to vote with their wallets, something good is happening.

Finally, thanks to everyone who attended.  Your support means so much.

What the River Sees, Blackstone River- 2016

Recovery

The U.S. Clean Water Act was inspired in part by the Blackstone River, which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island.  It was really the home of the industrial revolution in the U.S. because of the 500 foot drop in the River’s elevation between Worcester and Providence.  It was dammed no less than 49 times along the way, to create water wheels and power for the many, many mills that began to populate the region in the early 1800’s. That was a long time ago of course and the mills have largely disappeared, chasing cheaper labor first to the south, and then globally. Meanwhile, the River, which was once known as the hardest working river in the U.S. became known as the most polluted.  Keep in mind that the Clean Water Act was signed into law by a Republican President.  There were other equally polluted rivers of course, but the Blackstone was up there.

Things can change.  Out in the River, “rebranded” the Seekonk River at this location for some reason, just south of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with the RiverTours Blackstone (highly recommended by the way, hit the link if you’re interested) we could see evidence of the change all around us……fish and lots of them.  Hard to see at first because of the sand stirred up by the boat, and the fact that I didn’t have a polarizing lens with me to cut down the glare in the water, but they were there.

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Their relative invisibility however, was also defensively useful.  They were far from alone.  The bird activity was intense and impressive.  I’m not a bird photographer, but though I’d share a few examples.

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The fish now face the challengers that they have always faced, as it should be (I’d include fishermen and women on that list as well, but not yet.  You’re not supposed to eat fish from the River, yet.)

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During these extraordinarily difficult times I think it’s very important to keep in mind a few successes. We can make things better, if we care to.  The Blackstone River is getting cleaner.

Erosion – A Downloadable PDF

Over this past six months I’ve been exploring a variety of ways of getting imagery out there in product form in a fashion that represents some of my thinking, beyond the single image.  The first of these presents a series of images from the east coast of the U.S. on a topic soon to be of importance to everyone, the rising seas.

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Click on the link here to download a pdf.  You can view the pdf on either a tablet or a computer.  Alas, the navigation buttons work only on a computer.  However, on a tablet, you can just swipe.  These images are also available as a folio with images and colophon, printed on archival matte paper, 8.5″ X 11″,  boxed for $60.00.  Contact me at james@jameshuntphotography.com for more information.  Thanks.

Resist

Like many, I’ve spent considerable time reacting to the thoughtlessness with which our elected officials in Washington ignore the truth.  Most recently, we were told by our Secretary of Energy that carbon dioxide has nothing to do with the warming of the planet, which is fine because he also feels the planet isn’t warming.  But of course it is. The growing season is longer, ice out is earlier and far worse things are happening to places like Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay (it is disappearing) and all over the world.  Carbon dioxide and methane are the two gases in our atmosphere responsible for the warming of the planet.  That is not a particularly controversial scientific statement. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that the assault on reality seems overwhelming. What does it mean to “resist” that assault?

I have always experienced the power of nature as inevitable which explains my interest in erosion among other things. On a recent trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, thanks to the advice of a friend, we drove along Ocean Blvd., Rt 1-A, new Odiorne Point State Park.  New Englanders are pretty used to two kinds of coastlines:  sandy beaches and granite.  This beautiful stretch of highway has both, in the same location.  You can see eroding sand, and massive granite formations touching one another.  That granite isn’t going anywhere.  Sure, granite can be moved, by glaciers.  Anybody, other than the Secretary of Energy expect to see one of those in these parts anytime soon?  Probably not.  It will indeed erode over very very long periods of time, but so slowly, the water doesn’t represent a tremendous threat.  It faces into the sea and the wind, regardless.

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I remember once hearing Pete Seeger talk about resistance.  He was reflecting on all of the painful times and threats he had witnessed over the course of his life.  He didn’t seem to be the least bit deterred by the persistent nature of the forces with which he was engaged.  He also didn’t seem fearful or likely to succumb to hopelessness.  “We shall not be moved.” (based on the Biblical text, Jeremiah 17:8-9.)   Perhaps we expect it to be easy.