In the center of Ashland Massachusetts sits the Nyanza Superfund Site, one of the first ten sites of the EPA’s Superfund Program, launched in 1982. Nyanza was a chemically based dye company, one of the first colorant plants in US history. Throughout its history Nyanza has been a source of public health concerns and in 2006 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health verified that Nyanza caused an elevated risk of cancer to the Ashland residents. This history is the overall context of this art project which asks the following questions; what is going on with the remediation today, how is public knowledge disseminated, and how does a community regenerate while acknowledging it’s past?
This project activates a spatial network between three locations; the Public Library, the streetlights, and a garden. The network of these nodes each highlight a unique experience into the subject of Illuminating Futures as follows; the Public Library is the center of the informational dissemination of the EPA’s findings on site remediation, the streetlight intervention will serve as an in situ accurate dispersion of the remediation findings, while the garden will serve as a healing site of remembrance and resilience. This network will create a path for the artist to host ‘walkshops’—a walking tour that is also a workshop—for the community to directly engage in the realities of the subject within the physical site.
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING: OUR FUTURE IS OUR HISTORY IS WHAT I TITLED MY INITIAL, THREE-YEAR ART-BASED RESEARCH INTO THE SUBJECT OF ASHLAND AND NYANZA.
This project started during my Master's studies at the Harvard University, Graduate School of Design (GSD). I was mapping the history of color and how slippery and subjective it is and how it behaves differently across cultures, materials, and disciplines. During my initial research, I came across the Nyanza Colorant Plant. I had never considered Nyanza as a site for the synthetic production of color, I only knew it as the Superfund site in my hometown that was directly responsible for contaminating my community. Some friends of mine even contracted a rare, fatal form of cancer, and Nyanza was posthumously verified as the source. In researching the various cultures within a contaminated community this concept of unknowing emerged and it refers directly to the meta-narratives that shape identity, often only known to “insiders” as their patrimony.