Electricity is so embedded in every part of our day that we hardly think about it. That is, until summer rolls around and our bills skyrocket, or there’s a blackout. Between rollercoaster oil prices and the hydraulic fracturing boom, these days energy is the talk of the town. But where does our electricity come from? How does it get to us? Where individuals fit into this large and complex system? With these questions buzzing in their ears, CUP, teaching artist Samantha Contis, and NYC public high school students followed the current on a whirlwind investigative tour of the energy supply chain.

To get to the source of New York City’s electricity infrastructure, the team interviewed energy experts and peered down manholes. They visited a local utility company headquarters, an upstate transmission monitoring center, and plenty of power plants – from Astoria to Co-op City. They created a booklet and poster to share what they learned on the Power Trip.

The team presented what they learned at the Queens Public Library branch in Astoria in November 2011, where the students led energy-related activities for their Queens peers. The students also presented Power Trip in June 2012 at Anthology Film Archives. Over 140 copies have been given out to date. The bilingual poster and booklet has also been distributed by the Queens Public Library, and used to facilitate a community meeting on energy by National Council of La Raza at their Denver Town Hall.

Power Trip received a Professional Notable citation from the Core77 Design Awards in 2013.

The poster is available in six different languages, click on the icons to the right to download them as PDFs.

What People are Saying

“There are several skills I feel I learned. One is how to form questions. That goes from personal to social and so on. Then there is how to ask questions. That specifically means to ask follow-ups to make sure no stone is left unturned." Hubert Gancarz, student

“I learned so much from this program than I would have ever expected, and I also feel proud of myself to share our hard work to the public.” BinHua Wang, student

Resources & Links

Astoria Energy’s cogeneration power plant in Queens currently produces about 10% of NYC’s electricity.

The Center for Social Inclusion identifies causes of racial inequity at a systems level and works with partners to find solutions that promote equity and fairness.

Con Edison is a local utility company. They own the wires and pipes that transport energy to most of NYC, and control the distribution of electricity.

NYC’s Department of City Planning (DCP) is responsible for initiatives like Zone Green, an amendment to city regulations that aims to improve New York City’s energy use by promoting green building.

The RiverBay Corporation manages Co-op City, a housing cooperative in the Bronx, and provides power to its 50,000 residents with the city’s first trigeneration power plant.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) monitors the transmission of electricity throughout New York State, as well as the wholesale electricity markets where power is bought and sold.

NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, researches and funds projects to reduce New York’s energy consumption.

Funding Support

This project was made possible by the Greening Western Queens Fund of North Star Fund. Additional support has been provided by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and the Bay and Paul Foundations.

Special Thanks

Sean Ansanelli, Milovan Blair (Con Edison), Chashama, Dennis Chin, Mei Ling Chua, Susana Ferradas, Anthony Giancatarino (Center for Social Inclusion), Margaux Groux, Brian Heinbaugh (Astoria Energy), Amy Helfant, Sharon Hoosak & Deno Charalambous at Aviation High School, Burak Kanber, Kenneth Klapp (NYISO), Hildegaard Link, Sam Marks, Adolfo Mogilevich, Anny Oberlink, Cori Parrish, Sarah Pidgeon, Power to the People, Maniza Pritila, The Queens Public Library, Griffin Reilly (Con Edison), Clare Seekins, Chris Shelley, Ryan Southard, Dave Stone (RiverBay Corporation), Marina Teper, Brin Webster, Dan Wiley, Stephanie Yee, Jordan Zimolka.

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  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Samantha Contis

  • Teaching Artist Assistant
    • Fatima Abdul-Nabi
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
  • Christine Gaspar 
  • Sam Holleran 
  • Clara Amenyo
  • Students
  • Hubert Gancarz 
  • BinHua Wang 
  • David Park 
  • with help from 
  • Awa Baldeh
  • Graphic Design
  • Benjamin Critton

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Arabic Version

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Bangla Version

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Chinese Version

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English Version

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Korean Version

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Spanish Version


New York Art Book Fair: Books of Note
  • Domus
  • October 05, 2012

[Power Trip] explores the infrastructure and apparatus that keeps the lights on, and in so doing boils down a very complex topic in clear terms… affording the people involved an opportunity to (figuratively or literally) peer down some manholes and look at the city.