By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI, Associated Press
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island city that was home to the nation's first successful textile mill is showcasing its fibers once again.
A sculptor in Pawtucket has stretched thousands of feet of synthetic fabric cords across the Blackstone River in a suspended display of color that is equal parts art and engineering.
The installation, in the shadow of the Slater Mill, draws on the city's history as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and its modern-day incarnation as a sort of artists' colony. According to the city and artist Donald Gerola, who finished the work late last month, such a weaving has never been done.
"This is the first river that was ever woven in the United States," said Gerola. "This is history."
The "Weaving the Blackstone" project — reminiscent of the massive environmental "wrappings" done by the artist Christo — consists of nearly 30,000 feet of polyester, nylon and polypropylene cords stretched across the river. The brightly colored cables are suspended anywhere from 3 feet above the water to nearly three dozen; they cross in places, and at their longest, run 400 feet. In three spots, they are threaded through oversized heddles Gerola built to highlight the weaving theme. The heddle is the part of a loom through which all threads pass.
It took two archers with high-powered bows — normally used to hunt bear — to get the cords from one side of the river to the other. Later, vandals would cut them twice, forcing Gerola back to the drawing board. He says he spent countless hours with a machete and chain saw clearing brush and trees along the river to make the installation possible. He has a long list of gripes with the city and calls the project — for which he's being paid $22,000 — a "total financial loss." But it has mesmerized him.
The Associated Press: RI art woven across river in early textile city