- Monika Rivard
Burlington's Moran Plant is several blocks north of Main Street, but seven artists who have created work in and about it are going south. That is, to the 23rd annual South End Art Hop, which begins this Friday, September 11.
On a mission to raise public awareness about the former power plant and its potential, Jasmine Parsia and Chris Norris of New Moran Inc. organized an exhibit at the Karma Bird House Gallery on Maple Street. There, viewers who may not have visited the cavernous building on the Waterfront can get a taste of its artier aspects.
Sarah O Donnell was one of the first artists to shine a light on (and literally in) the Moran Plant with her 2013 light installation, "A Visible Night." It featured a rainbow panel of silk affixed to the inside of the windows on the building's south side, just over the letters reading "City of Burlington." At night, passersby could see a light racing back and forth across the strip, like a beacon frantically calling attention to the abandoned structure.
At Karma Bird House, O Donnell revisits that installation with a scaled-down interpretation in the window above the counter of the gallery's coffee shop. "You can't re-create Moran in Maglianero," O Donnell says of the reduced size. "But you can wink at it, and that's a really nice thing to be able to do."
Burlington painter Katharine Montstream toured the Moran in February 2013, just a few months before O Donnell. She recalls being "absolutely awestruck ... After going in that first time, I knew I wanted to paint it," she says. "And I haven't really stopped."
Montstream's contribution to the Art Hop exhibit is her latest entry in the Moran series. Also her largest canvas to date, the oil painting examines the steel structure that girds the plant's north wall; the hazy bluebird sky appears in negative space between the beams. Montstream achieves hyper-crisp lines with the use of tape, a technique that she says may have been inspired by fellow Moran artist Mary Lacy.
Lacy, a muralist who is currently revamping the silos at Dealer.com, spent the fall of 2014 adorning the Moran's interior walls with flora and fauna in her signature fractal style. The side of a bathroom stall painted with a hip-high daisy will represent Lacy in the gallery.
That's not the only hunk of Moran moving to Maple Street. Erika Senft Miller, who led a collaborative, site-specific performance titled "Powered by Moran" in June, is bringing in a chunk of concrete, the threshold of an old office door and pipes that will hang from the ceiling. The original performance was "about engaging with the building and opening up new perspectives," Senft Miller says. In the gallery, a series of prompts beside each of the installed objects will invite viewers to do the same.
Photographer Monika Rivard was charged with capturing the "Powered by Moran" performance. Her images offer a thoughtful contemplation of the "movers," as Senft Miller calls them, and their actions within the space.
In Daniel Cardon's photography, the Moran's grit acquires glamour. His images explore the texture and light of the weathered building and have featured heavily in New Moran's promotional materials.
Cardon also photographed a recent community mural project led by Clark Derbes and his wife and fellow artist, Wylie Sofia Garcia, on the Moran's western exterior wall. A print of the finished mural will hang in the gallery, and viewers will be able to buy copies signed by Derbes. Part of his "Streetquiltz" project, the colorful, Mondrian-esque mural was a collaboration with kids from the King Street Center, their mentors and other community members.
In its current state, the derelict power plant is not much more than a hulking canvas for artists, but New Moran's Tad Cooke and Erick Crockenberg are committed to retaining a focus on the arts in their renovation plans.
"The Vermont arts community has brought remarkable energy to Moran," Cooke writes in an email, "and it's a privilege to host artists of this caliber and variety in a collective, open setting."