Plume Project Lights the Saint Paul Skyline

¬For immediate release

Nina Axelson
District Energy St. Paul
Direct: 612-695-1288

Plume Project Lights the Saint Paul Skyline

Plume Project

Photo by Ryan Siverson

Saint Paul, MN (November 16, 2015) On Tuesday evening, three local artists will launch the Plume Project, a series of three temporary art works that will transform 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.

Emily Stover designed the first project in the series, Rumblings, which combines networked theatrical lighting and poetry to animate the District Energy steam plume, and to allow city dwellers to build a deeper relationship with their energy sources. Six local poets were commissioned to create a short original work that the public hears when they call the Rumblings phone number (651-383-1378), which triggers a plume light show. Rumblings is designed as a personal experience, so one caller at a time can hear a poem. Callers in queue and others viewing the plume will still see the light show. The poets include Jevin Boardman, Christina Collins, Dessa Darling, Ifrah Mansour, GE Patterson, and Matt Rasmussen. The work features music from Father You See Queen. This project runs until December 8.

“When I first visited District Energy, I could sense all of these complex layers of meaning underneath the mechanical systems, and I became curious about what a trained poet could uncover,” says Stover about the origin of the project. “I want Rumblings to be a platform for poetry and to create an emotional response with the people who experience it from the street. We are able to live together in cities partly because of all the complex systems that are operating just under the surface.”

The second project, Solar System, designed by Aaron Dysart, launches December 22, aligned with the start of the winter solstice. Solar System will use data from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory to present an ever changing light show in the plume. As sun spots and storms ebb and flow on the surface of the power plant in the center of our solar system, corresponding color-changing flood lights will shift and dim on the steam plume. This project runs until January 12.

The third project, the Plume Coloring Contest, led by Asia Ward, is an open call to submit visual content based on the topic of positive energy. Selected images will be curated and projected onto the steam plume for the whole city to enjoy. This project runs concurrent with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, between January 28 and February 7. A call for entries will be announced in early December.

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. Funding was made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul, 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.

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.

“Our community energy model has been a great resource for energy education, helping people better understand the role of energy in their daily lives and how we can influence the next generation of energy ideas. We pursued this partnership to explore how artistic interpretation of what we do could increase the curiosity about energy in our community. The resulting project and partnership has exceeded our greatest expectations. We hope it gets people talking about energy, science, and art around the dinner table, as well as creating an incredible aesthetic and thought-provoking experience,” says Ken Smith, President and CEO of District Energy St. Paul.

The projects will run from 5:00-10:00 PM on weeknights and 5:00-11:00 PM on the weekends. The three series represent almost eight weeks of arts programming, with each night promising something different for audiences. More information about the projects can be found at or

About the Plume Project Artists

For many years the artists of the Plume Project have been living and working in downtown Saint Paul, routinely wonder-struck at the majestic cloud coming from the District Energy St. Paul facility. Upon taking a tour, they were further intrigued when they learned that the plant generates local energy primarily from renewable and efficient energy sources, and that it is recognized as a world-class facility. Inspired by this overlooked, yet essential part of Saint Paul’s energy infrastructure, the Plume Project artists developed the idea to use light and projection to animate the steam plume, creating an artful spectacle that will spread their plume-love to the hearts of Saint Paul residents. Learn more at

About District Energy St. Paul

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. District Energy Paul is also a founding partner of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, which is a platform for sustainability education experiences. More about District Energy St. Paul and their work with the Plume Project is available at