About Turners Falls

Part of the Town of Montague, MA, the Village of Turners Falls is an extraordinary historic mill town that is blossoming from its industrial roots to become a hub of artistic inspiration, recreational adventure and natural beauty. The RiverCulture Project seeks to promote this rebirth of an area that is filled with history, promise, and a character all its own. Come experience Turners Falls and RiverCulture for yourself!

Artistic Crosswalk by Lahri Bond - 2012

Lahri Bond is the winner of RiverCulture's crosswalk design contest for the Avenue A at Thrid Street location.

Lahri Bond is a Lake Pleasant based artist, illustrator, writer and teacher. For over 30 years, he has provided posters, CD covers, magazine design and hand-drawn illustrations to a wide variety of clients internationally. He is the former art director of Dirty Linen: The Magazine of Folk and World Music (now sadly defunct) and is the current Art Director and Designer for Voice Male Magazine. Lahri is also an adjunct art professor at Holyoke Community College, and recently took part in the Easthampton Bear Festival.

The proposed design takes into account the unique history, present, and ecology of Turners Falls. The design would use the full, current 10 by 66 foot space of the walkway across Avenue A at Third Street, and superimpose a color filmstrip with seven indigenous river dwellers swimming through it. The filmstrip echoes both the Shea Theater's 1927 origin as a first run movie theater, and the present day presence of the Gallery at Hallmark. The seven river dwellers include (from left to right, paralleling the journey upstream through the Connecticut River): Blueback Herring, Sea Lamprey, Atlantic Salmon, Short-nose Sturgeon, Stripped Bass, American Eel, and American Shad. The mural would also act as a supplementary teaching tool in conjunction with the Great Falls Discover Center, as the fish portrayed are all included as part of a current information sheet on local river life. 

The aquatic theme makes maximum use of the current colors and paint available from the town, with the artist supplying supplementary colors provided from his connections with local professional exterior painters. The project could be executed in several concise stages; with the current space painted flat white, the film strip and background colors then painted in, and finally the fish drawn and painted over and through it. The artist happily welcomes volunteers to aid him in the project, and would take part in all publicity, to make the painting of the crosswalk a community-supported event.

A River Runs Through It, by Terry Marashlian - 2012

Winner of Riverscaping's design/build competition.  Terry R. Marashlian, Dan Trenholm, Paul Duga, Heidi Schmidt / Northfield MA.  The installation is attached to Building 11 of the former Strathmore Mill along the canal in Turners Falls.  Details on this project and Riverscaping, here.

See a video of the installation here.

Artful Bike Rack, By Annaliese Bischoff - 2010

Located on Avenue A near the Shea Theater

An artful bike rack for Turners Falls: Drawing upon the historic settlement origins of Turners Falls, earlier known as the "Great Falls," where Native Americans gathered to celebrate the bounty of salmon in the river, native salmon inspired the idea for this bike rack design. Further inspired by Greek theater masks, referencing the adjacent location of the renovated Colle Opera House/Shea Theater, this artful design offers Turners Falls a bit of whimsy through the two salmon figures interacting. Through the theater mask motif, the salmon take center stage, out of the proverbial water. Simply, one fish represents comedy and the other tragedy. Importantly, this artful bike rack in the cultural heart of downtown offers cyclists a functional place to park their vehicles. It extends an invitation to bikers along the Canalside Bike Trail to come explore the culture in the center of town. The Gallery at Hallmark and Great Falls Discovery Center are also nearby. The piece also stands on its own as public art in the downtown streetscape.

Woven River Installation, by Sebastian Gutwein - 2009

Woven River is installed on a walkway starting where 7th Street turns into Hill Street at the base of the hill connecting the downtown to the upper part of the village, ending on High Street at Avenue B. The installation will remain until it disintegrates.

The Woven River project exposes some of the history of Turners Falls and the constant reincorporation of the past into the present through a series of five installations connected by an undulating woven wall of branches. Stenciled on the sidewalk is a poem, by Maria Williams-Russell, tying the installation together. Each part of the installation points to a hope and a lesson from Turners Falls' history useful in creating a vibrant future for the village. Woven River looks at the history of Turners Falls as it revolves around the Connecticut River. No river, no town. As the Connecticut runs and is wearing through the rock beneath it, it is in a sense wearing through the past exposing it to the fresh light of today. At the same time, the river is carrying these bits along with it, until it slows down and deposits its load. In the Connecticut River's case, this release was the bottom of Lake Hitchcock. That lake became our fertile river valley. The installation allows us to visually gather elements of Turners Falls' past and carry it along to lay the fertile foundations of Turners Falls' future.

About the artist:
Sebastian Gutwein is an artist, craftsman and ecological designer who cultivates a deep fascination with the poetics and politics of space and place. He is a founding partner of the Regenerative Design Group in Greenfield MA.

About the Poet
Maria Williams-Russell is a writer who sometimes thinks of herself as a lost bird whose feathers don't match the feathers of the other birds where she has landed. Adopted by a Lithuanian mother and a Mayflower descendant father, she is not quite sure what it means when people ask her for directions in Spanish or marvel at her olive skin. Her poetry seems to revolve, in various ways, around this idea of displacement, of where and what is home. Maria received her MFA in poetry from Goddard College and her poems have been published in The Bellevue Literary Review, Chronogram, Sous Rature and other small journals. She writes from her home in Greenfield, MA.

Sebastian Gutwein can be contacted baswein@gmail and 774-4589.

View map of installation site here.

Read more about it here

Turners Falls Sculpture Park - 2007

Are you interested in helping to create a sculpture park overlooking the the canal and Connecticut River in downtown Turners Falls? For more info, please email Joe Landry - Youth3dpark@aol.com.

Doosel, by Stephen Cahill - 2006

Located at Avenue A at Third Street in front of Gallery at Hallmark

Stephen Cahill, a brick mason by trade says, “The quality of craftsmanship in the buildings of this town has become somewhat of a lost art. I hope to pay tribute to this aesthetic in my work…My artistic creativity comes from many places: the decay of man-made buildings, the rust of the railroad or the natural wonders that surround us…Turners has provided me with an endless inspiration that inspires me to create.”  Cahill has created work for the Boston Flower show, independently created and installed sculptures along the river in Turners, and produced paintings and work in mixed media.

Powertown, by James Rourke - 2006

  Located at the foot of the bike path at the parking area at the end of First Street at the river.

Powertown is an abstracted wheel constructed of forms and materials pulled from the history and visual landscape. The wheel is meant to echo the water wheels utilized by the canal’s factories as well as the bicycle wheel that transforms a rider’s energy into movement. Rourke notes “the surrounding landscape and structures become material to be explored so that we may gain a deeper understanding of the life of the past and possibilities for our individual and collective futures. The wheel is a universal symbol of man’s development over time and functions to visually draw a similarity between the recreational and mechanical uses of our earliest technology.”

Rock, Paper, Knife, by Gary Orlinsky - 2006

Stands at the riverside bike path next to the Fish Ladder and in front of the parking area.

Rock, Paper, Knife will juxtaposes stacked paper from the last remaining paper mill with the stacked rocks from the river, displayed inside of a monumental support made of oak timbers. Rather than use knives from the cutlery factory, he  included the grinding wheels used to sharpen blades as a tribute to all the men and women who labored in the mills. “For it is not the architecture or industry alone that we celebrate- but the spirit of the people who made these things possible.” Much of Orlinsky’s work has explored the dual themes of regional history and the interplay of nature and civilization and notes “while the dams and canals provided the power for the mills, they also created the rather unique landscape of the dry riverbed.”

Atlantic Salmon Mosaic, by Cynthia Fisher - 2006

Located in Peskeomskut Park

This large mosaic salmon, a fish that is an important symbol of a healthy river environment, pays tribute to the goal and hope of “biologists and nature lovers alike that this once abundant inhabitant of the major rivers in New England will with our help, recover from the drastic population declines.” An accomplished mosaic artist, Fisher has created several works of public art as well as illustrated 30 children’s books. “While color is the obvious attraction for me, it is the more sophisticated and challenging aspects of working in mosaic that I truly respond to…I love bouncing between thinking analytically and intuitively about how to achieve a desired affect.”