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Getting the scoop on the poop

Mazzotta posing near his creation at Pacific Street Park in Cambridge. (Josh Reynolds / AP Photo) Mazzotta posing near his creation at Pacific Street Park in Cambridge. (Josh Reynolds / AP Photo)
September 28, 2010

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Boston artist Matthew Mazzotta has caused quite a stink in Cambridge -- and it's gotten him noticed around the world. Mazzotta is the creator of a street lantern in Pacific Street Park fueled by dog poop, known as the Park Spark project. With the project coming to a close at the end of the month and the 33-year-old setting his sights on other projects, The Globe asked him the burning question: Why poop?

What inspired you to create the Park Spark?

I had been interested in methane digesters for a while. What got me is it's free energy. You take cow or dog poop, and this technology can create energy from it. Another thing is methane is actually a potent greenhouse gas. Basically, we found out by burning it, it reduces the gas. That was interesting to me that burning something could be good for the environment.

How does it work?

It's very, very simple, and I guess that's why it's so magical. All it is, it's the same thing when people pick up a bag of dog poop and tie it off. This thing is capturing all the methane from the poop and reducing it by combusting it.

Your creation is practical. How is it also artistic?

I'm presenting these technologies to a new audience, instead of presenting them in a journal or publication. I'm bringing this to a dog park that makes it more visual and social, putting it into a different context that makes people think about it. Creating an artistic project is what the goal of the Park Spark is - reducing the emissions, creating the energy and creating a social space. I wanted to do something social with it, create some kind of social space, like boiling water for tea, or shadow puppets, or making popcorn. The lamp is just the default.

What has reaction to the project been like?

Kind of crazy. [The story] has gone all over the world. It's been on it seems almost every single news channel. ... I've been doing interviews for about five times a day per week. I get people requesting [the project ] from all over the world and all over the United States. It's good for the environment, plus it makes energy. That's why it's interesting to people.

What will you do after this project is dismantled at the end of this month?

The “Park Spark” is a concept, and the idea is born now. This project is all about highlighting all the animals in this city and how we are dealing with the waste. This idea is now born, so now we have to deal with it. Come up with solutions. Next year, I'm going to choose six cities and work with them further on this -- reductions in emissions with the creation of a social space like this. I'm trying to make it as local as possible.

Are you a dog owner?

No, and everyone asks me that. I've worked with a dog park for a couple of months now, and I'm fond of a couple of dogs in there, but I don't have one.