The legend of the Carrie Blast Furnaces
The Carrie Blast Furnaces would stand out even if they weren’t the only thing in the field where they’re located.
They stand 28 metres tall and look like something out of a dystopian novel. (See Spectator photographer John Rennison’s photo gallery here)
The furnaces are part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Centre, a site in Homestead, Pa., that interprets the role of the Monogahela Valley in the 20th century.
In addition to being a great backdrop for films (they were used as a location in the Christian Bale film “Out of the Furnace” and in reality TV show “American Ninja Warrior”) they’re home to all kinds of art projects.
It started out as an underground thing.
Artists were drawn to the isolated furnaces, with their rusted sides and dark corners and decrepit brick buildings.
There was graffiti and there were sculptures. There were late-night parties and then there was talk.
“It was the ’90s,” says Ron Baraff by way of explanation. People started whispering about the occult, police broke up a few parties and the site was eventually given to Rivers of Steel, where Baraff works as director of museum collections and archives.
They still cater to artists who are drawn to the site.
They bring in graffiti artists to work on certain structures. They also have a workshop program that teaches photographers the history of the site in the hopes they learn to consider context in shooting historical sights rather than just looking for “cool things.”
Though there are plenty of those, too.
Back in the ’90s a group of local artists spent a year of Sundays sneaking in to build a massive sculpture of a deer’s head out of scrap found on-site. It sits in a kind of courtyard at the centre of the furnaces.