Art installation at the Fulton brewery taproom sheds light on MnDRIVE sponsored sustainable wastewater treatment research

Byproduct, a new site-specific installation by artist Aaron Dysart, is opening at the Fulton brewery taproom on September 23 and runs through October 23, 2021. Byproduct will carbonate the façade of the taproom with shifting colors generated from an enormous mirror ball. The colors show the results of a sustainable wastewater research project conducted by Paige Novak and her team at the University of Minnesota.

We often overlook the loveliness of carbon dioxide bubbles drifting up the sides of a pint glass. On one hand, it is just the byproduct of a yeast cell, but on the other, bubbles are one of life’s simple and refreshing pleasures. Byproduct uses the visual language of carbonation to speak to this potentially ground-breaking research at Fulton. As these colorful bubbles float up the façade, we will celebrate the continuing push to make the world a better place.

Dysart utilizes the captivating language of arena concerts to celebrate overlooked stories about innovative ways to live more sustainably. It has become increasingly hard to stay positive about the climate, but research producing genuine improvements in energy recovery and waste utilization continue to push forward. Dysart’s installation, Byproduct, explores the way Novak’s research is turning to microbiology to manage waste in a more responsible way. Manufacturing in general creates waste and brewing beer is no different. Novak’s research seeks to create beneficial byproducts from brewery wastewater while lowering the overall cost of treating that waste for small to medium sized breweries. Indeed, in natural systems, waste equals food, and the byproducts of one organism are useful for another. Humans also create waste that other (micro)organisms can use, though it requires more thoughtful engineering than required in most natural systems. It’s time to move such promising research from scientific journals, full of complex figures and charts, into the public sphere and into the light.



Aaron Dysart is a sculptor who is interested in using visual language and spectacle to give hidden stories a broader audience. His environmental interventions showcase his love of light shows, fog machines, and data, while his objects showcase his love of a material’s ability to carry content. He has received awards from Franconia Sculpture Park, Forecast Public Art, The Knight Foundation, and The Minnesota State Arts Board, and his work has been in Art in America Magazine, Hyperallergic, Berlin Art Link, and other publications. He has shown nationally and partnered with local and national organizations including the National Park Service, Army Corp of Engineers,, and Mississippi Park Connection. Aaron is currently a City Artist through Public Art Saint Paul. He is embedded in the city of St. Paul, and operates his studio in northeast Minneapolis.

Paige Novak is a professor and the Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Among other projects, Novak and her team are working on the development of a new type of treatment technology that relies on the encapsulation of bacteria into small, gel-like beads that can be easily deployed and retained—perfect for use at small industries such as craft breweries. This technology treats the waste, and in the process, generates energy in the form of methane gas that can be used on-site. For Dysart and Novak’s collaborative project, funded by the MnDRIVE: Environment Initiative at the University of Minnesota, Novak deployed a small pilot-scale system using these encapsulated bacteria at the Fulton brewery to treat their wastewater in real time, comparing it to a much more operationally and energy-intensive treatment technology. 

Bill Arnold and Natasha Wright were collaborators in the research. Kuang Zhu, Siming Chen, and Olutooni Ajayi also worked on the project

Byproduct is funded by a McKnight Project Grant through Forecast Public Art, and a MnDRIVE: Environment Demonstration Grant through the University of Minnesota.

Photo: Aaron Dysaart © 2021