Nina Axelson

Nina Axelson

Vice President – Sustainability and Outreach

Public Engagement through the Plume Project

PowerplantTonight kicks off the final installation in the groundbreaking Plume Project, which is a series of three temporary projection projects that use the steam plume from the biomass-fired combined heat and power plant affiliated with District Energy St. Paul. The third in the series, Plume Coloring Contest, was developed by local artist Asia Ward and celebrates the theme positive energy, featuring works of art submitted from the community, including drawings, photographs, and videos. The gallery of submissions is now available online. The installation was planned to coincide with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival to optimize community and family engagement. The show runs from 5:30-9:00 every night through February 7.

Ever-Green Energy is proud to sponsor the project as part of our organization’s long-standing commitment to energy and environmental education. As District Energy St. Paul’s service provider, our team led the initiation of this project’s development three years ago, in an effort to extend our existing outreach efforts through District Energy St. Paul, a system globally recognized for sustainability and innovation. This reputation has drawn thousands of people interested in learning about where their energy comes from or how to build or improve a community energy system. While our commitment to these programs helped us to reach individuals seeking energy information, we were still not reaching the broader community. Even more importantly, we didn’t always have the right method or message to help people understand our unique approach to community energy, which works to benefit customers, community, and the environment. The launch of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict was our first major step to educate a broader audience about energy and sustainability. The EcoDistrict gave us a new platform for students, teachers, and science enthusiasts to see technologies and programs in action that are redefining our future cities.

The EcoDistrict helps engage people on an educational and experiential level, but we wanted to engage people through their hearts as well as their minds. We knew that a public art project would add a new opportunity to reach people that may not be thinking about where their energy comes from or whether their energy sources are sustainable. And to help them realize the influence that community members have in shaping our future energy solutions. Recognizing that we needed a partner in the arts, we approached Public Art Saint Paul for help, and they brought us together with Works Progress and the City-Art Collaboratory, who were working to bring artists and scientists together to explore the intersections of their work. This collaboration brought us together with the three brilliant plume artists, Emily Stover, Aaron Dysart, and Asia Ward.

Fast forward three years to tonight’s Plume Coloring Contest premier and the opportunity to reflect on the success of the last three months. The response to the projects has been incredible. The Plume Project has created a tremendous opportunity to provoke discussions about energy, and its relationship to community, environment, and most of all people. It is truly the human side of this project that has made it so fascinating, and what will hopefully make it effective in continuing a community conversation.

Our cohorts in energy, art, and education are clamoring to learn about where this work could go next. More plume projections? More collaborations? More innovative education that helps our messages about energy and sustainability reach the next generation of leaders and changemakers? We know there will be no shortage of big ideas and new opportunities.

We want to offer our most sincere thanks to the Ever-Green Energy teammates who made this project possible with their support and creative problem-solving of technical hurdles. Of course, we also must offer our deepest gratitude to the Plume artists. Through their bold vision and hard work, our successful experiment has opened up a whole new dialogue about art, energy, community, science, and partnership.

Learn more about this innovative collaboration on the District Energy website. Submissions for the Plume Coloring Contest will be accepted through February 5 online.

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