Plume Project

The Plume Project, was a series of three temporary art works that transformed the signature District Energy St. Paul steam plume into a canvas for projected light displays. Each art work was designed by an individual artist as a member of the Plume Project team, using projection lighting, coloring, and animation to create an art and science project unlike any other in the world.

Plume Project photo gallery

The Plume Project video by Nick Nelson, City of Saint Paul

Plume Project

Photo by Ryan Siverson

Rumblings by Emily Stover, November 17 – December 8, 2015

Rumblings combined theatrical lighting, the work of six local poets, and the District Energy St. Paul steam plume to prompt people to build a deeper relationship with their energy sources. The public was able to call a phone number and hear a recording of one of the poetic interpretations, which triggered a light show spectacle on the tower. The poets included Jevin Boardman, Christina Collins, Dessa Darling, Ifrah Mansour, GE Patterson, and Matt Rasmussen. The work featured music from Father You See Queen.

Solar System by Aaron Dysart, December 22, 2015 – January 12, 2016

Solar System used an ever-changing light show to highlight the source of the earth’s energy and showed that we are all connected through our need of energy. Live data taken from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory dictated the color and brightness of the plume lights and create a captivating spectacle. As the Sun is the center of our solar system providing power for our planet, District Energy’s plant stands in the center of the city providing heating, cooling, and power for most of Downtown St. Paul.

Plume Coloring Contest by Asia Ward, January 28 – February 7, 2016

Plume Coloring Contest was an open call for local residents to submit content based on the topic “Positive Energy” to be projected onto District Energy St. Paul’s steam plume. Residents were encouraged to enter their drawing, video, or photo, to the project. Content was and projected onto the plume during the Saint Paul Winter Carnival events for the whole city to enjoy.

From Concept to Public Art Experience

The Plume Project was initiated through a partnership and exploration between District Energy St. Paul and a joint venture between Public Art Saint Paul and Works Progress, the City Art Collaboratory, which included the Plume Project artists.

District Energy St. Paul became involved in this work as part of its long-standing education and outreach program, which has historically supported tours, classroom education, and science and climate curriculum development. District Energy is also one of the founding partners of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, a sustainability learning adventure in the heart of downtown Saint Paul.

What is the Plume?

District Energy St. Paul is a unique utility that generates heating, cooling, and electricity for the community. Pipes run from the plant on Kellogg Boulevard to hundreds of buildings in downtown Saint Paul, providing heating and cooling. A portion of the heat provided comes from steam that is leftover from electricity production, which utilizes local waste wood as its main fuel. This process is called combined heat and power, which is twice as efficient as standard energy production and connects District Energy customers with heat from renewable energy. The water vapor that is left over after creating electricity and heat is vented through the cooling towers, which serves as the canvas for the Plume Project.

Learn more about How it Works and the CHP Technology used at District Energy.

About the Artists

Emily Stover is an artist-designer and adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota, College of Design. Though her professional experience is in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, she crosses design disciplines to create public art installations and engaging experiences in and about public space. Emily is a City Arts Collaboratory fellow through Public Art Saint Paul, and a recent recipient of the Forecast Jerome Planning Grant, Art(ists) on the Verge Fellowship, the McKnight Next Step Fund, and a 2015 Franconia Fellowship. Her work has been part of the Northern Spark Festival, the Creative City Challenge Maker Day at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Weisman Art Museum’s Pop-Up Park programming, and the Walker Art Center’s Open Field through the Kitchen Lab Residency. Past work includes a temporary structure for making and sharing dumplings, a solar-activated sonic sculpture, and an interactive game-like experience about the postal service. Emily is currently working on licensed mobile kitchens for food-based community programming, a city-scale light installation in downtown Saint Paul, and a bus stop residency project.

Aaron Dysart is a sculptor whose environmental interventions push ideas of propriety, gift giving, and reciprocity, while showcasing his love of material’s ability to carry content.  He is current fellow in St. Paul Public Art’s  – City Art Collabortory, which brings scientists, engineers and artists together to explore the complex systems through which cities are built, experienced and sustained and also participated in their Hunting and Gathering Walks program in which artists lead walks with scientists along the Mississippi river. In 2010 he was awarded a Public Project grant through Forecast Public Art to create and row a boat made out of soap on the Mississippi river and has also received awards from Franconia Sculpture Park (‘07, ‘12), and The Minnesota State Arts Board (’13, ’15) and has shown nationally, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art and Josephine Sculpture park.  Dysart currently lives and works in Northeast Minneapolis.

Asia Ward works between the realms of science, art, and education. Asia is a resident artist who creates public art projects about the environment, water systems, and electrical power generation. Since 2005, Asia has been working for the Science Museum of Minnesota and in 2012 started working for the KidWind Project developing products, writing curriculum, and training teachers about renewable energy education. Asia has participated in several Artist Residencies around the US and has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts board, the Jerome Foundation, Northern Lights, Public Art Saint Paul, and the Knight Foundation, and was recently selected to be one of the featured artists in the book: The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich from the Exploratorium.  Currently Asia is involved in two large public art projects, the Plume Project, Plume Coloring Contest, and Solar Tree, both on display the beginning of 2016.


The Plume Project was made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul, Ever-Green Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, and Saint Paul College, along with 85 individual contributions through an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. The match has not been fully met, and the artists are still seeking additional sponsors.

Media Coverage

“7 days of fun: See what’s projected on St. Paul’s steam plume now”
Pioneer Press, January 29, 2016

“Artists turn a plume of steam into art in St. Paul”
Kare 11, January 28, 2016

“The Plume Project turns steam into an artist’s canvas”
City Pages, January 28, 2016

“Interview: Aaron Dysart – Plume Project”
MPLSART.COM, December 24, 2015

“St. Paul’s plume of steam is going to become a colorful art project”
Bring Me the News, November 17, 2015

“Plume Project aims to make art in St. Paul’s sky”
MPR News, November 17, 2015

A steam plume + spoken word = art (video)
MPR, November 16, 2015

“Artists’ plume of color will billow over downtown St. Paul sky”
St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 15, 2015

“St. Paul Plume Project starts with ‘Rumblings'”
MinnPost, November 13, 2015

“Plume Project lights up the night sky with art”
Knight Foundation blog, November 13, 2015

Plume Project

Photo by Ryan Siverson

District Energy St. Paul is operated and managed by Ever-Green Energy.