The Northampton Arts Council is a city board and a non-profit organization whose goal is to support and promote the arts in Northampton. Originally created as a Local Arts Lottery Council, it began its work by administering a grants program in which proceeds from a state lottery are distributed to local artists, arts groups, and public schools.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Debris Flow: a meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874


What: Debris Flow: a meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874

Who: Rebecca Muller

Where: Historic Northampton

When: March 11 – April 3, 2016

Opening Reception: March 11, 5-8 pm (Arts Night Out)

Public Talk: Elizabeth Sharpe: Capitalism and Calamity: The Mill River Flood of 1874, Saturday, March 12, 2 pm


Rebecca Muller:

Debris Flow: a meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874

On May 16, 1874, an earthen reservoir dam in Williamsburg, Massachusetts broke, thanks to hubris and human error. One hundred thirty nine people died, and some 600 million gallons of water and debris destroyed factories, homes, and bridges along an 11-mile path, ending in a broad plain in Florence. The tragedy, the first major dam disaster in the United States, was a big story nationwide, and photographers flocked to document it. Debris Flow is a mixed-media exhibition based on stereopticon images of this historic disaster.

Muller’s artistic explorations often revolve around found material, scattered fragments of things lost, abandoned, eroded, or wrecked. We live in a debris-laden time. Household debris that clogs our living space. Emotional debris of buried or unexamined disappointments, sadness, pain, heartbreak, and trauma. Beliefs that keep us stuck in old patterns. Energy debris that sucks away our well-being. There is a danger in debris, as in the Mill River Disaster. But there is also beauty in debris. Debris marks time's passing, the impact of weather. It is a record of leavings, the aftermath of events, and brings with it an attendant awe.

Rebecca Muller has lived and worked in Western Massachusetts for over 35 years. She is a member of Gallery A3, in Amherst, MA., and has shown her work in community and university galleries throughout the Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts, and New York. She studied painting and drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, (evening school), Boston, MA and received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in l990.

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This program is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.



Public Talk:

Elizabeth Sharpe: Capitalism and Calamity: The Mill River Flood of 1874

Saturday, March 12, 2 pm

Elizabeth Sharpe is the author of In the Shadow of the Dam: the Aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874 published by the Free Press in 2004. Many valley residents who had survived the flood and its aftermath never spoke of it again, and local histories whitewashed the cause of the first great dam disaster in the U.S. The reasons why, and the story of the disaster, will be addressed in this illustrated lecture. This talk, free and open to the public, is in conjunction with the exhibition Debris Flow.

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The Contemporary Art at Historic Northampton program is supported by a generous grant from the Art Angels Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

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