National Park Artist Exhibit and New Studio Opening 2012

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Date: May 21, 2012

On Sunday, July 15th from 3:00-6:00PM visiting Artist in Residence Andrea Polli will unveil the culminating exhibit of her multimedia exploration called “What do you Hear” at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont.  

The project includes a series of fanciful sculptural 'listening vessels' loosely based on the late 19th century acoustic devices and a sound installation calling attention to the tragic disappearance of native bat populations in New England. The exhibit coincides with the opening of the park’s new Pony Barn Studio, a historic barn remodeled in to an artist in residence workspace using sustainable design approaches that are both beautiful and functional.

Polli’s glass listening vessels are designed to resonate with the park, to create an interactive, playfully experience that focuses on the importance of the soundscape of this national treasure and other Vermont green spaces. The devices were inspired by Helmholtz resonators, an object that exploits the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, such as when one blows across the top of an empty bottle. They were created in the 1850s by the German engineer and scientist Hermann von Helmholtz in order to identify the frequencies or pitches present in music and other complex sounds.

Polli will also present work in collaboration with park scientists. Over the past 5 years North American bats have been defenseless against an infectious killer leading to the worst epidemic of wild mammals ever observed on this continent. This white nose fungus has killed a vast majority of the once-thriving bat population in the state of Vermont. Although bat vocalizations are inaudible to human ears, contemporary ultrasound recording technology and computer analysis has allowed scientists to study these calls and associated bat behavior.

Prior to the white nose fungus epidemic in 2001, conservation biologist Kent McFarland from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and resource manager Kyle Jones recorded bat calls in the park as part of a wildlife survey. In 2011 they recorded the calls again and found a 97% decline in detection. Polli will arrange these recordings and other park sounds into an ambient soundscape installation highlighting the fascinating complexity of these calls.

The acoustic exhibit will be installed in the new Pony Barn Studio, an historic barn in the center of the park that has been remodeled to serve as a work space for visiting artists and park programs. The Studio is completely off-the-grid, powered by solar panels and heated with a wood stove. The interior has been refurbished using wood harvested from the park.
The Studio is a partnership project of the NPS and Woodstock Foundation, Inc. The project was designed and managed by Smith, Alvarez, and Sienkiewycz Architects from Burlington with general contracting services provided by Corner Stone from Reading, MA.

Andrea Polli is a digital media artist and Associate Professor of Art and Ecology with appointments in the College of Fine Arts and School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico. She holds the Mesa Del Sol Endowed Chair of Digital Media and directs the Social Media Workgroup, a lab at the University's Center for Advanced Research Computing. Her work with science, technology and media has been presented widely in over 100 presentations, exhibitions and performances internationally, has been recognized by numerous grants, residencies and awards.

The Art and Conservation Stewardship program is a partnership of K2 Family Foundation and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. By working with contemporary artists, the park and foundation hope to help extend the conversation between artists, land, and audience. The program provides each artist with the time and space needed to explore new conservation thoughts and ideas in their own artistic manner. For more information about the Art and Conservation Stewardship program, visit

The exhibit opening on July 15 will include a free reception from 3:00-6:00PM to celebrate Polli’s work and the opening of the new Pony Barn Studio. After July 15th both the listening vessels and sound installation will be accessible in the Pony Shed Studio.  

Last updated: May 22, 2018

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