Public Lab Research note

Mapping the Sweetwater Festival in Rolla, British Columbia

by ann | June 20, 2015 20:33 20 Jun 20:33 | #11992 | #11992

On June 13, 2015, I led a balloon mapping workshop at the Sweetwater 905 Arts and Music Festival in the small town of Rolla, BC, located just across the border from Alberta. I was visiting there as part of a larger project I am working on, Mapping the Northern Gateway Pipeline, tentatively titled, The Map is Not the Territory. For that project, I have been traveling around northern British Columbia and Alberta, documenting the communities along the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. More information about the project can be found at

Rolla, BC isn't anywhere near the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but I learned about the Festival and saw it as an opportunity to share Public Lab's tools. Rolla, BC is surrounded by agricultural lands and fracking operations. Many of the people I met at the festival work in the oil and gas industry. It is a huge presence up here and a large employer.

The festival has been going on for almost 20 years on a private farm and has a continuous line up of really amazing music, poetry readings, art exhibitions in a barn and a lot more. The organizers were kind enough to schedule in a mapping workshop at the last minute.



Cows grazing behind the music stage


My amazing helper, Anton. He essentially made all the images, helping me walk the balloon around the entire property, twice! At different heights.


It was pouring rain and cloudy for the earlier part of the day, but the rain gods gave us a break and the skies cleared up just in time for the workshop. Balloon in the sky.


I don't remember the name of this musician playing in the background but he was really really good! And could do a split while playing his guitar. I was very impressed.



Link to map on Mapknitter.

Unfortunately, the balloon popped before I could do a third round of mapping. We tried storing it in a barn, which turned out to be a bad idea. I learn something from every mapping I do and the lesson I came away with from this one is do not store a balloon in a barn filled with all sorts of possible balloon-popping opportunities (splinters, hay, low ceilings, etc.).

We flew the balloon at roughly 700-800 feet on a clear, windless day, between 4-5pm in the afternoon.

The helium was generously supplied by local artist Peter von Tiesenhausen and the Demmitt Community Centre.

Questions and next steps

This mapping workshop is part of my larger ongoing documentation of the northern communities in Alberta and British Columbia that are located along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The town of Rolla, BC is pretty far away from the pipeline route, but the oil and gas industry has a huge presence up here. Many people work in the oil and gas industry, there are signs of fracking operations everywhere.

The purpose of this mapping was to generate interest in Public Lab's tools and start asking questions about the land we live in, what it looks like, and what are the stories about these places where we live.


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