AMBRIDGE, Pa. — It’s on the minds of many in the county, though some more overtly than others.
After five years of construction, hype from government officials and pushback from environmentalists, Shell’s petrochemical complex in Potter Township is slated to open in the coming months. In January 2020, RiverWise, a Beaver County-based sustainable community development nonprofit, alongside community leaders, took a week-long trip to numerous petrochemical complexes along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.
RiverWise, key stakeholders from Beaver County and members of Allegheny County-based nonprofit New Sun Rising journeyed to Louisiana to get better acquainted with some of the petrochemical mammoths of the south. Traveling more than 2,000 miles, learning from organizational leaders, environmental advocates, community organizers, politicians and everyday residents of the region, RiverWise observed, asked questions and filmed extensive portions of the trip.
On Thursday, July 28, RiverWise, in association with New Sun Rising, will release “Boom & Bust,” a documentary illustrating the journey from Beaver County to the Gulf Coast region. Filmed, produced and edited by local filmmaker Christopher Padgett, the documentary is intended to spur conversation, elevate awareness and mobilize residents to think critically and ask difficult questions about the future health and vitality of Beaver County.
In creating “Boom & Bust,” Padgett, who serves as Director of Communication for RiverWise and is the owner of Human City Creative, hopes the film accurately represents the complexity and beauty of Beaver County — and its complicated past — and breathes new life into the value of community-centered listening, engagement and sharing.
“Taking this trip with such curious and genuine community leaders was a powerful experience,” said Daniel Rossi-Keen, executive director of RiverWise. “For years now, Beaver County residents and leaders have been assured that the arrival of Shell will inevitably transform the region for the better. Our trip suggests that the story is far more complex and nuanced than that. We returned from this trip realizing just how much we have to learn and do if we want to ensure that our communities meet the needs of future generations of Beaver County residents. We are hopeful that this film will help to illustrate some of that story and encourage ongoing conversation about our region’s future.”
Like Rossi-Keen, Scott Wolovich, executive director of New Sun Rising, is hopeful the film can serve as a vehicle for community conversation around a pressing topic with far reaching implications.
“Spending time alongside people living in a close relationship with large petrochemical facilities was a moving experience,” Wolovich said. “By sharing what we saw, heard, and learned through this film, we’re hopeful that people in our own region will become inspired to pursue a future that works well for all.”
“For me, Beaver County is a beautiful and complex area. One of the county’s stories is a story of loss, hope and the search for what new life looks like,” Padgett said. “By sharing this story, I hope it can be an invitation to enter into those conversations more and more as a community.”
The film will premiere at 7 p.m. July 28 at Iron Horse Theatre Company, 348 Maplewood Ave. in Ambridge. The evening will feature the first official release of “Boom & Bust,” followed by drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Space is limited and registration is required. To register for the event, visit here. Find the film’s preview here.
The July 28 release of the documentary is one of several to take place in the coming months. A second showing will take place in Beaver County during the second week of August. A third showing is expected to take place in Pittsburgh toward the end of August. A virtual showing of the documentary will also take place in the coming weeks. Those who are interested can stay connected with RiverWise and New Sun Rising by following @getriverwise and @newsunrisingpgh on social media for the official dates and times of later film screenings.
RiverWise employs sustainable development practices to create a regional identity around the rivers of Beaver County. At the heart of this work is a concerted effort to organize stakeholders to dream, learn, and collaborate about the future of our rivers and the communities that surround them. For more information, visit: http://getriverwise.com.
New Sun Rising supports the people building vibrant communities through culture, sustainability, and opportunity. They provide capacity building, accessible funding, data, and creative advocacy to help nonprofits, social enterprises, and collaboratives lead and benefit from the future they envision. For more information, visit: https://www.newsunrising.org.
Human City Creative uses story-telling to listen, share and preserve stories of people and cities in process; to connect community by seeking understanding, grace, empathy, and celebrate the value of one another. For more information, visit: https://www.humancitycreative.com.