Coal ash impact concerns expressed through art, film


The voices and experiences of communities impacted by coal ash pollution will be elevated for reflection through a pairing of art and film during the Cucalorus Film Festival Nov. 13-15.

Working Films collaborated with Wilmington-born, New York-based artist Greg Lindquist and journalist and filmmaker Rhiannon Fionn to spark conversation and community engagement on the issue, said project leader Kristin Henry, in an effort that started with screenings of four short films in eight locations across the state this summer, including a June 19 stop in Wilmington.

“We see pairing [Lindquist’s] art with film as a new pilot project to create a more interactive and participatory experience,” Henry said.

Lindquist, who was already exploring the impact of coal ash pollution with an installation at Flanders Gallery in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this year and another planned for the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2015, seemed a natural fit for the project. He followed the issue from New York, and, troubled by the fragmented narrative portrayed by traditional media outlets following the Dan River spill in February, he created an opportunity to contemplate the people and places impacted through art.

“The only time the media pays attention to this is when there’s something visible, that’s undeniable, that you can’t ignore — like ash in the water,” Lindquist said. “This helps bring to light all of those voices, and presents it in a way that people can parse out however they want.”

Local volunteers worked with Lindquist Nov. 8-12 to create the installation, titled Smoke and Water, at the Southeastern Alliance for Community Change Action Center on Castle Street. The installation incorporates imagery from his Flanders Gallery work interspersed with facts about involved organizations and reactions from impacted communities, including comments from Wilmington residents compiled with help from Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette.

Colin Wiebe, a Cape Fear Community College student from Durham, was vaguely familiar with the controversy surrounding coal ash pollution when he showed up at the community action center Nov. 9 to get extra credit for Jennifer Mace’s art class. Wiebe said he is motivated to learn more after painting an image onto the installation of the candy-striped smokestacks of the old coal-fired Sutton Plant rising above Sutton Lake.

“It helped bring more awareness to me about it. I’ll look into it more on my own,” Wiebe said.

The installation will be open for gallery hours Thursday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Nov. 14 from noon to 5 p.m. Lindquist is scheduled to talk about his work during opening receptions Nov. 14 from 5-7 p.m. and Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the Nov. 14 reception, parts of the installation will be detached and paraded through downtown Wilmington in an effort to reach more members of the community.

A screening of Fionn’s documentary “Coal Ash Chronicles” and a discussion with Fionn and film editor Nell Carden Grey will follow at Jengo’s Playhouse from 7:30 -9 p.m. Nov. 14. Tickets for the screening cost $10.


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