The Plumbing Museum has declared the ribbon-cutting and launch of the Manoog Family Artist in Residency Program, a new cultural initiative being provided to the Watertown and Greater Boston communities.
Designed to encourage careers in both the arts and trades, the program provides artists with the physical and financial resources required to explore the relationship between art and industrial engineering. Named after the founding family of the Plumbing Museum, the Manoog Family Artist in Residency Program offers artists the chance to harness their passion and imagination to generate significant artwork, develop their skills and give back to the community, all over the space found at the Plumbing Museum and its partner organization, J.C. Cannistraro.
As part of this program, selected artists are supplied with complete access to studio workspace, fabrication and welding tools, materials and a cash award. The program’s first resident artist, Ryan Leitner, is a recent graduate of Tufts University School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The autumn residency will conclude with an exhibition at the Plumbing Museum in January 2017.
At home in Australia, it’s not surprising that the plumbers who made an “Ettamagoh” dunny to race at the prior dunny races in the Warrnambool Talent have created a “Cistern Chapel” pipes museum themselves. Warrnambool plumbers Tony Van Rooy and Brian O’Shannessy obviously enjoy a little fun but their Cistern Chapel is significantly more than dunny humour.
The group of plumbing paraphernalia reveals how changes in plumbing technology have made life much easier and highlighting previous plumbers’ abilities as well as the risks they faced. Mr O’Shannessy said he initially believed his buddy Tony’s pastime of collecting plumbing paraphernalia had been “stupid” before he caught the ‘art collection’ bug and joined him in a few collectors’ rallies.
The collection grew and both got a site at the South Western District Restoration Group’s centre that’s next to the Cobden Miniature Railway and Mini Golf Park. In the true spirit of the old plumbers who were ingenuous in repairing things, they recycled a corrugated iron shed from neighboring Dixie to make a home for the makeshift museum.
It houses everything from old nighttime soil cans and architectural engineered timbers to elaborate ceramic and metal piping configurations as well as the major array of different varieties of toilet cisterns the museum is named after. Other displays include round the corner chisels and coin-operated gas meters. Most haven’t been restored to increase the allure of their era.
Tony, 67, and Brian, 62, have been plumbers for several decades and know the tales behind lots of the things including the inspiration for the saying “as flat as a shit carter’s hat” At the time before sewer pipes were set up, night soil carters took off the bathroom cans from backyard bathrooms.
They carried the cans in their shoulders and the hats they wore to protect their heads from spillage and possible corresponding gas installations frequently wore flat. Lots of the museum’s displays are over a hundred years old like a water main made from stainless steel slats bound with wire. When the absorbent wood became wet, it swelled to become waterproof.
The displays elicit lots of laughs and stories from visitors about their experiences with similar products. Comic signs like “Old plumbers do not die, their plungers only perish” and a “Plumber’s Poem” add levity to the museum. Old wooden bathroom doors under laminated structural timber beams have a new function as display boards for ranges of taps. The plumbers delight in opinions in their guests’ book saying that the museum is “a shit place” or something similar. But while they could laugh about their work, they said it was clear improvements in youth had supplied big improvements in quality of life.
“Prior to a flushing toilet was really easy,” Mr Van Rooy said. But even with each of the technologies and essentially blocked plumbing and drains or burst pipes, he stated meeting his clients was among the best parts of his job. The chance to meet people was why he loves doing maintenance plumbing in a form of art as opposed to construction. Mr Van Rooy said while plumbing sometimes involved getting into unsanitary circumstances, plumbers were generally able to keep “from the shit.”
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