The Firehouse Bell Project

The Firehouse Bell Project was on view at Burlington City Arts as part of the exhibition User Required in April and May of 2013. The installation posed two questions: Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again and if so why should it ring? The installation included video from the foundry where the bell was made, the bell’s original striker that we found in the bell tower.

Once an essential communication technology for the City of Burlington, is the firehouse bell just a decoration or does an inspired contemporary purpose await its ring?

Download the document of complete responses.

Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again?
Yes Votes = 464
No Votes = 68

Selected responses from the 2013 exhibition:

Life Rituals

  • It should ring every time a new baby is born in Burlington. (This was a popular response)

Art Event

  • When there is an (art) opening, ring the bell.


  • Ring the bell on the morning of a voting day as a reminder to vote!
  • The bell should ring every time someone gives any amount of money to a homeless
  • Ring the bell every time an animal is adopted from the CC Humane Society.
  • If the bell coincided with the bus schedule…maybe the 1 (that’s the line I most frequently aride), it would be really helpful for me!


  • It should ring if there is an emergency.
  • Aka it may be like a doom bell.
  • Apocalypse or when warning when all else fails

Astral Natural Fantastical

  • Have it ring at high and low tide.
  • Have water mist around the bell and ring it when the sun is in position to make a rainbow. 
  • It should ring according to the moon cycle
  • When it rings 1000 times the aliens will invade the Earth.
  • At the equinox and solstice and other astral events. 
  • It should warn if zombies attack, have regular Zombie drills (Once a month @ random)

Celebrations Events

  • The bell could be used to celebrate and announce community events, such as the Farmer’s Market, First Fridays, Art Hop, Festival of Fools, The Giant Pumpkin Regatta, voting days, First Night, Fourth of July , the last day of school and other special occasions. 

Special Time of Day

  • Ring at 5:00pm every Friday marking the start of the weekend – “The start of the end”

It should ring, just make sure….

  • Ring it. It makes us happy. And if it annoys anyone, it doesn’t last for very long. They’ll get over it.

Historically significant – important to remember

  • It should ring again so that people do not forget what a real bell sounds like.
  • Yes! Upcycle! New use for historic artifacts!

Turn it into something else

  • It should be replaced with a bubble machine.
  • Making a German coo-coo clock-esque animatronic flying monkey that hammers the bell.
  • This bell is destined to be used in a contemporary statue that rings at meaningful times. The statue should represent Burlington in all its glory. Or be a pterodactyl. Actually, just make it a pterodactyl. 

Loving/Poetic/present tense need for bells

  • I love the bell.
  • It’s magical.
  • I love you.
  • Bells are part of our life. They make us aware of how time moves by. Sacred, honorable, event, move on, take notice, Keep us in step.
  • The bell RINGING AND BECKONING a community to come together CELEBRATES our accomplishments, ties US TO OUR PAST, resonates for FUTURE GENERATIONS
  • It will inspire people to write poems!!

Certainty/Good song titles

  • The &#$! Are you talking about? Just live your life man.
  • Utiliser de l’électronique!
  • Function and decoration. Best of both worlds, dingaling, abing bong.
  • What else is a bell good for? Paperweight.
  • Soundez justice! Maitenant! S’il vous plaisez!
  • Just ring that damn bell!

User Required
April 12, 2013 – May 18, 2013
Burlington City Arts Gallery, Burlington, Vermont

Bells were once necessary to summon the public all at once, all together, all in one place. Their sounds are deeply woven into the cultural fabric and unique soundscapes of cities and towns worldwide. Civic bells are constant; they mark time through personal stories and shared histories that unite a public’s past and present. Despite extraordinary and rapid advances in communication technology, do we perhaps still have a basic desire to hear bells ring into the future?

The installation included voting ballets, voting boxes, access to a website that held Karson’s research, video of a similar bell being made at the Meneely Bell Company, the striker from the bell and an architectural drawing of the Firehouse and its bell tower. Video by Steve Seremeth. This installation was documented in the publication  Critical Making Montreal.