The All Arts Council and the St Albans Recreation Department will embark on a formidable performance art and science project on Monday. The "theater" will be above Taylor Park and audiences should be able to see the results from most areas of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties.
      "Sky Art this Monday is the most ambitious performance project we've tried yet," said Recreation Director Mike Boulerice.
      Eye catching and fleeting, skywriting is almost a thing of the past.
      "We applied to NASA for an opportunity to combine their science with our art," said AAC treasurer Tim Stetson. "Several AAC artists have designed a giant mural for the noon sky."
      The 16 planned mural images include a dancer photographed by Wayne Tarr, one of Eric Bataille's Covered Bridges, the Taylor Park fountain from Bob Brodeur's photograph, an Ionic column painted by Valerie Ugro, and a reproduction of Peter Hawksworth's well known Agri-Art.
      Sky Art and skywriting is performed at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. Originally the result of smoke made by burning oil, the large letters or figures can be seen for about twenty miles in all directions.
      Working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA engineers have developed a new cloud-forming material. The new technology uses a reverse venturi to spray ionized micro particles in accurate patterns across the sky. The particles slowly form precisely shaped clouds that are expected to last about two hours. As the art-clouds dissipate, they in turn force significant localized rain showers.
      In mid-2001, NASA designated northwestern Vermont as one of four aerial testing stations around the United States.
      "We are excited about this event because your topography is perfect for cloud forming, New England is experiencing severe drought, and the project also fits the mission of the NASA Art Program," said JPL Project Manager Ian M. Park about the Monday project. Area residents will recall that NASA contributed theArtistry of Space exhibit to the AAC Railroad Days Festival in St Albans.
      Early skywriting efforts stayed in the sky for only twenty minutes or so, depending on conditions, and the first letters of longer passages often dissipated before the whole message was written. Skywriters could write about 32-36 normal-size letters per flight. Thanks to the new particulate delivery technology developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Rohm and Haas, "We expect this imagery to last much longer," said Mr. Park.
      The lead pilot will be Dan Handy of St Albans. Mr. Handy recently purchased a Maule M-7/260C from NASCAR driver Bill Elliot. The 1988 Winston Cup champion, Mr. Elliot finished 21st at Bristol on Sunday and holds the record for the fastest run in a stock car, 212.809 mph at Talladega. That is faster on the ground than the planes will fly in the AAC Sky Art project.
      "The Maule is a perfect aircraft for this project," Mr. Handy said, "because it is usually configured as a seaplane. Mine doesn't have floats, so the NASA engineers have been working all month to add a pair of microparticle distributors that look pretty much like the original floats."
      The actual cloud making will be computer controlled. As Mr. Handy and the other pilots fly a prescribed pattern, onboard digital controllers will mix particles of different density and color to form each mural image.
      The science component is rain from sky salting. Rain-making "plants the clouds" to increase rainfall artificially and improve distribution of rainfall. It increases the abundance of rainstorms, improves surface flow, and increases the stores of groundwater. Although often planned during the early stages of the growing season, groundwater experts here want to improve the aquifer level before most planting occurs.
      The Jet Propulsion Laboratory will also set up a web site to feed live pictures from two orbiting satellites, and the NOAA weather radar stations will monitor the results.
      Students from area schools will gather in Taylor Park at 11:30 Monday morning and stay until about 2:30 to see the entire event. Audiences normally watch every step of the imagery as they anticipate the final message. "We recommend umbrellas," Mr. Stetson said drily.
      Performance art is a new field for the All Arts Council. A performance art piece is often daring, very current and, with events typically only 15 minutes long, quite brief. The phenomenon is difficult to censor since it usually has never being carried out before and may never be repeated. The space and time restraints of performance art usually do not allow elaborate sets or props. The AAC Sky Art project will challenge all those parameters.
      There have been other Sky Art projects in the world, including one in Maastricht, Netherlands, Otto Priene's Sky Art Alaska, and the upcoming Sky Art Conference in October. The annual Sky Art Conferences foster a deeper awareness of the environment and of imaginative ways to support it and inspires creative use of the sky and space. Held on the island of Ikaria, Greece, it is organized by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Remember the Date

      The AAC is administering the Vermont Sky Art program thanks to major grants from NASA, MIT, and the Vermont Aeronautics Community Foundation.
      "We expect to gain an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest, longest-lasting, Sky Art project," Mr. Boulerice said. The performance art exhibition will begin exactly at noon on Monday, April 1, 2002.

Editor's note: Check the exhibit date. Rest assured that it is (almost) April 1, there is little or no cloud seeding happening over St Albans, and you have been fooled.

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