With this project I wanted to use art to provide a forum for Batavians to voice their feelings about the shut down of Fermilab’s particle accelerator. Named the Tevatron, it was was until 2009 the largest particle accelerator in the world, and until September of 2011 was operated by Fermilab scientists on the east side of Batavia. Fermilab plays heavily into the town’s image of their community. Its main building is featured on welcome signs alongside a windmill, the symbol of the city. Batavia’s slogan was also changed in 1983 from “The Windmill City” to “City of Energy” to encompass the legacy of both the windmill industry and Fermilab. I wondered then, how would people feel about its shut down? The Chicago Tribune, Kane County Chronicle, and Chicago Reader, among other newspapers have written about the scientists’ reaction to the change, but none have focused on the Batavia residents.
For the public art response, I asked artist Mouse to create illustrations of images that related to Batavia and Fermilab’s history. There are twelve in all, some are symbols of Batavia’s history like a windmill, fox or Mary Todd Lincoln (she briefly stayed in Batavia’s sanitarium following the death of President Lincoln). Others are particles discovered by Fermilab like the tau neutrino or top quark. Each image then responds to the accelerator’s legacy and is accompanied by an image of a bulldog (the high school mascot) asking residents, “How do you feel about the shut down of the Tevatron? Write something!” I placed 80 images around the high school and downtown area for one week. During that time students and residents wrote responses of anger, sadness, and frustration. One resident even photocopied one of the images and created her own electric poll shrine.