GRAFTON, N.H. — Fitchburg’s Revolving Art Museum on Saturday, Nov. 12, produced “ARTventures: Ruggles Mine,” during a public art event at the former mica mine.
“It was one of the most dramatic sites I’ve ever seen,” said Jerry Beck, founder of Fitchburg’s Revolving Art Museum, about the mine he discovered while driving through the countryside several months ago.
“I knew I wanted to do an art project there,” he said.
With that goal, Beck and a group of Fitchburg-based artists designed and choreographed what he described as a “theatrical public artwork,” with the idea of one day opening a “visionary theme park addressing societal issues, such as racism, sexism, the importance of ethnic diversity, domestic abuse, homelessness, poverty and ecological sustainability.
To accomplish that goal, Beck envisions “thousands of artists, youth and community members in the process of experimentation, problem-solving, interactive technologies, green chemistry, and lots of playfulness.”
He also said the site, which has no electricity, would be powered by alternative energy sources.
As a trial run, on Nov. 12, Beck and the Fitchburg artisans descended on the mine, with the owners’ permission, and filmed a documentary of the process of trying to buy the mine, and he “needed a story line as powerful as the site.”
With practically no budget, the group secured a piece of artwork, a 14-foot cowboy boot, a giant head sculpture, an 8-foot-tall, all-glitter horseshoe and a movie screen, and began filming.
“We decided to make it as simple as possible, and since we had no trained actors, I told everyone to have fun, improvise, make it dramatic and come up with their own responses to the mine,” Beck said.
The concept, he said, was to create a “multisensory bridge between the mine’s past, present and future, creating a surrealistic journey.”
“It was so inspiring,” he said. “Now I realize what The Revolving Museum could achieve at Ruggles Mine is something truly extraordinary.
The mine was discovered in 1803 by Sam Ruggles and is the largest mine of its kind in the United States, measuring 1,640 feet long, 335 feet wide and 250 feet deep. It is currently for sale.
“The owners and I are thrilled to be collaborating with Jerry Beck and his Revolving Museum,” said Douglas Martin, Ruggles Mine representative and participant in the project. “Over the years, Ruggles Mine has been seen by thousands of visitors who have appreciated its history, monolithic scale and mineral beauty.”
While the mine is about a two-hour drive from Fitchburg, Beck said it could become important for the city’s artisans.
“We would be involving many artists and community members living and working in Fitchburg and adding to its creative economy,” he said.
Coraly Rivera has lived in Fitchburg for more than 20 years. She is a Spanish teacher at Fitchburg High School and heads its multicultural program. She is a Revolving Museum board member and is on the board of advisers at the Fitchburg Art Museum.