‘Silt Life With Barnacles’

But is it art? The Steel Yard thinks so and they will be transforming this pile of dredged-up rusting junk into a mobile interactive art installation, in an effort to educate the people who keep throwing this stuff into the Providence River.

Actually, this is the “curated” refuse pile from the river dredging project begun two years ago, when Dan Goulet, marine infrastructure coordinator for the Coastal Resources Management Council, first wondered whether all these scooters, hoses, shopping carts, and plastic bags, might be put on display to get the public’s attention.

This is where the Steel Yard comes in. The Providence Journal spoke with public projects director Tim Ferland for his vision of the project:

Instead of an in-your-face container of debris, the trailer-mounted artwork will depict the rivers in cross-section. Some of the sand, chock-full of microplastics, that was sucked out of the rivers will be used to form the bottom. Metal fish and crabs crafted by welders will be suspended above.

And while one side will be crammed with a mass of snack bags, soda bottles and plastic cups to show how we’ve marred the rivers that cut through the heart of the capital city, the other side will have a more hopeful vision of cleaner waters and richer animal life that’s possible if we can get our act together.

Mr. Ferland spoke with The Dose earlier today. The entire walk-through exhibit (with some explanatory text) will sit atop a trailer pulled by a truck. Ferland wants the experience to show people what a mess the river was, and what it could be (if we would stop junking it up):

Certain open areas will be filled with actual trash and sediment from the dredging process. And the story that you’ll get when you come around the trailer is of what the river was like with all the trash in it, and what we can do to make the river a healthier river in the future.

It will never be a pristine river . . . ever. But we can make it a healthy river.

The Wisconsin contractor tasked with the dredging told Ferland it was one of the worst rivers they’ve ever seen. In particular, the plastic bags and clothing wreaked havoc with the dredge cutterhead, causing frequent work stoppages. The delays have added an estimated $400,000 to the cost of the project!

Ferland pictures the exhibit traveling around to public events like WaterFire and schools and such. They are aiming to be ready by June 30th.


A plastic bag ban is before the Rhode Island general assembly right now. Way overdue.

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