Abby Williams

2017 Winter Photo Contest Winners

We loved your submissions for the 2017 Winter Photo Contest– many lovely photos of happy critters, icy plants, and dreamy landscapes came in, but we’ve managed to narrow the dozens we received down to a few winners. Thank you to everyone who submitted a photo!

Anna, Jenny and Liz weigh in on our finalists below:

Winners

Abby Williams

Abby WilliamsI gasped when 18-year-old Abby Williams submitted this stunning portrait. Black and white perfectly captures the texture of the fallen snowflakes against dark hair. The ice around her chin is so visceral I can almost feel the familiar sting of an icy scarf brushing against soft winter skin. What a fierce look—we might as well declare this model a contest winner, too. – Jenny

Walking in Winter, Caileigh Mahan

Caileigh Mahan, Walking in Winter

Even in a big city, one can find a quiet, still moment by stepping into newly fallen snow and seeing familiar surroundings as if they were brand new. – Liz

Georgia Young

Georgia Young

Georgia Young’s photo of a conifer in the snow captures the luminosity and stillness of new snow. A shallow depth of field draws the viewer in, creating an intimate view of the delicate dusting of snow in the foreground. – Anna

Runners-Up

Estelle Atkinson

Estelle Atkinson

Love the way the splintering light showcases these lively winter thorns.

Richele Dillard

Hover Fly, Witch Hazel, Richele DillardBrilliant macro of this resilient winter pollinator(that’s a Hoverfly!) on witch hazel by Richele Dillard.

Rebecca Dhondt

Cresheim Creek, Rebecca DhondtFun at Cresheim Creek!

Staci Vernick

Staci VernickHappy to see this little critter doing what they need to do to survive!

Bill Botzow

Combating a Natural Enemy

By Liz Jelsomine, Environmental Art & Public Relations Intern

P1020138Restoring, protecting, and preserving nature is no small task, and when that land is comprised of worn-out farmland overwhelmed with invasive species, the job becomes even more of a challenge. Artist Bill Botzow realized this when he visited the Schuylkill Center in 2002, stating, “The Center’s commitment to restoring the land while educating the public is impressive and I would like to contribute to support that effort by highlighting some of the Center’s environmental restoration practices and strategies.”

Botzow observed and quickly learned about the main challenge the Center faces; invasive species. He decided to create three wooden structures, titled En, In, Ex-Closure.  Comprised of natural and native materials, each served different ecosystems and addressed this large problem. Continue reading

Investigate & Create: My Experience at the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education’s Annual Conference

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By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

I recently had the opportunity to attend a great conference, the annual gathering of the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE), which this year focused on the theme of integrating the arts into environmental education.

Miss Martha Shaum’s handmade knit jellyfish at the auction

The conference occurred on February 4th, but the beginning of this story actually goes back to January 2015.  At the time, the idea of an arts-flavored conference for environmental educators was just a glimmer in the eye of John Sandkuhler, a MAEOE board member who had long been involved in organizing the MAEOE conference.  John reached out to me early in their process of proposing this idea, to talk about how we at the Schuylkill Center had integrated environmental art into our programming and to pick my brain about potential artists and organizations that could be involved in the effort. Continue reading

Crochet mushroom

Foraging for Art

By Liz Jelsomine, Environmental Art & Public Relations Intern

Editor’s note: The Schuylkill Center produced a wall calendar for 2017 in celebration of the environmental art program. Throughout the year, we’ll run a monthly post on our blog highlighting the art works featured in that month of the calendar. Calendars are still available, now 50% off – only $10 each!

What started out as an amateur attempt to forage for mushrooms led to 20 years of exploration, mycology enthusiasm, and art for Philadelphia artist Melissa Maddonni Haims and her husband, Josh Haims.

Josh’s curiosity was initially peaked after noticing mushroom foragers during his early morning bike rides along the Wissahickon when visiting Melissa’s parents in Norristown, while Melissa’s curiosity was sparked after inquiring about a morel mushroom dish at a Manhattan restaurant. Their curiosity grew, and Josh presented the idea of foraging to Melissa. Soon, the two were in Fairmount Park stumbling over rocks and deep into the woods in search of fungi.

Josh began stopping on his bike rides to photograph the mushrooms, and developed quite a collection of fungi photos over time. Blending her creative crocheting with an interest in biomimicry, Melissa was inspired to crochet made-to-scale mushrooms mimicking Josh’s photographs, which were then attached to found wood.

Melissa Maddonni Haims Cold Comfort 1Melissa had previously exhibited at the Schuylkill Center in 2012. Her work, Cold Comfort, involved crocheted yarn-bombed trees along the Widener Trail and main driveway, enlivening the brown and grey winter landscape.  At a visit to the Schuylkill Center in 2015 to discuss a possible biomimicry show, discussions with Director of Environmental Art, Christina Catanese wandered to the morel mushroom and her husband’s collection of mushroom photography, and the concept for The Foragers was born.

Melissa and Josh brought fungi life into the Schuylkill Center in the form of crocheted mushrooms and photographs in their joint exhibition in early 2016. Melissa’s crocheted tableaus were given a setting by Josh’s photographs, creating an overall feel of being immersed in a forest.

The artists chose to focus on local fungi for the show. “These are mushrooms that you could go outside here [at the Schuylkill Center] and anywhere in this area. Something that is amazing about mushrooms is just the sheer diversity of them,” Catanese said in a conversation. “I think what’s great about Melissa’s work is that it’s like these little windows into the forest floor that celebrate this diversity.”

SCEE4813In addition to their work being displayed in the gallery, Melissa tapped back into yarn bombing and expanded her work onto trees along trails at the Schuylkill Center. Visitors could discover 9 crocheted mushrooms on their travels, staged as they might be found along the trail and on trees. In addition to the show, Melissa held a mushroom crocheting workshop, inviting participants to explore the creative and earthly processes.

A show shedding light and celebrating the forest ecosystem, Melissa explained that, like mushrooms, The Foragers exhibit represented just the fruit of something with roots stretching back 20 years.

GirlMS

How to Be Like the Glaciers Melting

Guest contributor Leslie Birch, 2014-2015 LandLab Resident Artist

A few years ago I sat at my computer reading the latest on the demise of the glaciers in the Arctic. I was angry with the polluting corporations, fed up with the greed of the oil industry, disgusted by people’s consumption, and alienated by a government ruled by lobbyists. I felt frozen, as if calamity had already happened; some days I was even bleak about the future. My home thermostat was set to 69, two of my computers were on, I was surrounded by electronic parts for a project and I was getting ready to drive to Whole Foods in a Honda Element wearing a puffy NorthFace jacket picturing a tall Chai Latte. Feel free to laugh, as I’m certainly laughing now as I write this. How long did it take me to figure out that I was the problem?

RavineA2

Luckily for me a a few years ago I also discovered the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab program and started an investigation of a gully that had formed from stormwater runoff on the southeastern side of the Center’s property near Port Royal Ave. This water finds its way down to Wind Dance Pond, where it eventually overflows into the stream. With the help of Stroud Water Research Center I was able to develop a monitoring system to measure the changing depths of the stream. While this was an interesting project, what is pertinent is the fact that I was forced to face climate change head on. Philly is getting hotter and wetter, and while the Center can’t stop mother nature’s waters it can encourage artists like me to communicate the problem and get involved.

ClimateDisrupted

After the project was over, the Center asked me to collaborate on two other art/education projects dealing with water issues, thanks to a grant from CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership). CUSP is working on preparing Philadelphia for the future issues brought by climate change and they work locally getting neighborhoods on board using friendly techniques. I decided to join their efforts and have become part of a team of organizations and individuals starting conversations, offering education and demonstrating mitigation techniques.Thanks to their workshops I’ve learned how to discuss this topic without scaring people, have discovered what other partner cities are doing to face the same issues and have attended lectures by experts in the field. I should mention that I don’t have a science background, but I do consider myself a citizen scientist. CUSP’s strength is its ability to bring all types of people together, and later in the year I worked with another member artist to create the first climate change art festival under their umbrella in Fishtown. It was exciting to create my own art on the topic of corn and weather, and fascinating to see how people expressed their climate concerns using mixed media, including spoken word and music. The Schuylkill Center’s fall 2016 exhibition on climate change was part of the same grant and has brought together even more artists and enabled more people to join the conversation.

PublicLab

As you can see, what started as a small project has snowballed, and I find myself looking for other ways to combine my interests to work on the problems of climate change. One of my strengths is working with electronics, so I recently joined Public Lab, a grassroots movement using DIY techniques to address environmental concerns. I attended their LeafFest gathering, which was a weekend camping trip where members demonstrated their latest environmental work including solar balloons, an Arduino modem style device and a trail cam. I learned about a project they are developing which uses a houseplant and aquarium pump to help reduce toxins in the air. They sent me home with those materials and soon I’ll be creating a tutorial for the project that can be shared around the world. It’s all part of the mission to offer open source methods to monitor and mitigate environmental issues.

So, having come from a state of being frozen like a glacier, I too am melting. There are many small changes that can help this planet,and I’m starting to make them part of my life. Nowadays I’m walking to the grocery store with my husband. It’s great exercise, less stressful and certainly kinder to the environment. I recently learned just how important it is to give feedback to our government officials about environmental matters. So, I’ve returned to my old ways of calling legislators and writing emails. Now I’m learning how to combine art and activism through free webinars from The Center for Artistic Activism. Someday I hope to engage other groups and artists in work that goes beyond education and actually encourages others to make changes.

PublicLabGroup

My story isn’t “yea, me” because there is probably a lot more I can do to serve this world. However, it is a huge thank you to the Schuylkill Center for helping me to realize that by working on one small problem I would gather the courage to do more. There is a reason for the Center’s commitment to the arts and it goes beyond appreciation for beauty; it’s another strategy for voice and change. We all have the ability to do more, whether it be to add water-loving plants to our yard, to make a roof reflective, to buy our food locally or to just have a conversation about the environment with our neighbor. Doing one small thing makes all the difference. What kind of strategy or skill can you offer to help Philadelphia prepare for the changes that are already beginning?

Going Up Gallery Wall

Climate Change Art Spotlight:  Jill Pelto

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

Looking back over the year of environmental art at the Schuylkill Center, one of the highlights of 2016 was our gallery show, Going Up: Climate Change + Philadelphia. Along with the work of seven other artists exploring the various facets of climate change, this show included a new work by Maine artist Jill Pelto which was created specially for this exhibition, called Philadelphia Sea Level Rise Scenarios.

Pelto herself is both an artist and a scientist, and uses her watercolor paintings to communicate scientific data in a more visually compelling way.  Starting with data and charts as the framework for her paintings, she creates landscapes that enliven environmental information. For example, in Landscape of Change, Pelto uses the form of a line graph of declining glacier mass to depict a glacier, while a graph of rising sea levels is represented by deep blue water. Jagged red and orange imagery takes its shape from data on increasing forest fires, and increased atmospheric CO2 is shown as a gray sky. Continue reading

Community Show Opening_1-26-17-01

Call for Art: Community

Jenny Ryder, Environmental Art & PR Intern

With the dawn of a new year approaching, it’s as good a time as ever to commit or re-commit yourself to new year resolutions and opportunities for the future.

At the Schuylkill Center, we are committed to using our various platforms and resources to help inspire meaningful connections between people and nature—whether that be through our Nature Preschool, here on the blog, in our gallery, or just a simple retweet. As we renew our commitment to the planet and our ecosystem this year, we must necessarily renew our commitment to all of those who help us to keep our doors open and programs running: you!

Community, the next gallery show at the Schuylkill Center, will celebrate local artists across different themes and media. The show will be a non-juried, salon-style exhibit open to members and non-members alike, featuring Schuylkill Center staff members, visitors, volunteers, and friends. Works from every artist who submits will be included—find all the details here and submit your work by December 15.

Enquiry Into Plants

Stephanie Jones, Enquiry Into Plants (Historia Plantarum), after Theophrastus: Maturation

 

Anna, Manager of Communications & Digital Strategy at the Schuylkill Center, is looking forward to seeing a snapshot of our community as a whole, “This show is all about creating in community; from all these different crowd-sourced works, something beautiful comes together, something that paints a portrait of who we are.” With only a week left to submit work, we are already so excited about the wide range of submissions we’ve received over the last month.

Last year, volunteers logged over 14,000 hours at the Schuylkill Center, most of them spent keeping our wildlife clinic up and running. Volunteers do everything from watching our front desk during staff meetings, preparing and throwing our many seasonal events, and saving the toads every spring during our ever-growing Toad Detour, among other various duties. We are lucky to have such an involved group of community members, and look forward to being able to showcase some of our friends’ and neighbors’ work on our gallery walls.

Urban Jungle

Elisa Sarantschin, Urban Jungle


 
“This gallery show excites me more than most others because of one thing: perspective.” Elisa, coordinator of our NaturePHL program (more on that in the spring), and longtime former volunteer, is excited to witness the multitude of ways our friends and neighbors see and experience life in our upcoming show. “Giving people space to share their perspective on art, nature, and the Schuylkill Center in any and all ways is phenomenal.” In an aesthetic sense, Elisa’s photographs capture intricate as well as expansive and dynamic elements of the native wildlife in and around the Schuylkill Center. She is interested in seeing the other artistic perspectives by which people find a way to connect back to the natural world.

Cassandra Petruchyk,a volunteer at the wildlife clinic, has memorialized Zelda, the Clinic’s beloved and longtime turkey friend, in a portrait for the show. We’ve received some beautiful botanical depictions of the growth and maturation of local flora, photography of local landscapes and animals, and more.

Not all work will revolve around what we traditionally refer to as “nature.” We’ll encounter themes of memory, time, and all sorts of explorations into the realm of human experience, from poetic engravings to modern dance.

Help us ring in the new year as we renew our commitment to the land and open our doors to art from our local community. Whether or not you plan to submit to the show, thank you for all your support, as we could not do what we do without you.

Community will be accepting submissions until December 15th. There is no submission fee and all artists who submit will be shown in the gallery. The show will open with a reception January 26th at 6pm.

Jill Pelto climate change indicator data in Philadelphia

Climate Change: Making the Global Personal Through Art

 By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

What does climate change mean for Philadelphia?  As a large, complex, global process, it’s not an easy concept to wrap our minds around.

As you might expect, climate models project pretty clearly that Philly will face a future that is hotter and wetter.

According to CUSP – the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership , scientists predict that in our region we could experience as many as three additional weeks of days over 90° by the 2020s. All that heat not only is unpleasant, but can also lead to serious health risks.  CUSP also found that the Northeastern US has been experiencing more frequent extreme precipitation events than any other region in the country. Not only will we get more total rain, projections say that climate change will cause heavy downpours to become even more common and intense.  Philly’s tidal rivers are also impacted by projections of sea level rise, and the combination of more rain and rising sea levels is concerning for low-lying homes and infrastructure, like the airport.

It definitely helps to have localized data about climate change to understand the impacts, but even so, we can still not fully understand the implications of climate change, or worse, feel powerless to do anything about it. Art about climate change has a unique potential to make these problems personal and relevant – just what the Schuylkill Center’s latest gallery show strives to do.  As part of the Center’s Year of Climate Change in 2016 and our ongoing effort to talk about climate change in new, relevant ways, our gallery show this fall unpacks what climate change means for our region.  Continue reading

Native Pollinator Garden art installation changes over time

Art + Time at the Schuylkill Center: a 2017 wall calendar

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

One of the most important aspects of environmental art is leaving time for nature to respond to an art work.  Change is a constant in the natural world, and when artists venture outside the controlled setting of the studio or gallery, art must be responsive to change, time, and seasons.

Indeed, many environmental art works are not complete until nature has had time to respond and artists have had time to understand and reconcile change in the work.  Stacy Levy’s Rain Yard needs rain to fall for the collaboration with water to happen; Jake Beckman’s Future Non-Object #1: Sol’s Reprise needs fungus and other soil organisms to grow, and the piece won’t truly be complete until it becomes soil, many years from now.

Many environmental art works are invitations to nature, which nature will respond to in its own time.  WE THE WEEDS, for instance, installed their woven tapestry of invasive vines in a vine-filled meadow, hoping that the living vines would contribute to the artwork by growing and weaving themselves onto and into the work, that the vines heartily accepted this invitation.

Environmental art can itself even become a calendar of sorts, revealing the change in seasons and cycles. I know spring has sprung when the columbine sprouts in our Native Pollinator Garden, and that fall has arrived when the asters bloom in Welcome Home.

We present environmental art on various timescales – some is temporary, disappearing from our forests after a just few weeks’ time, while other works are with us indefinitely.

So, this year we decided to put together a 2017 wall calendar, celebrating cutting edge, contemporary environmental art in our fields and forests. Founded in 2000 as an opportunity for artists and audiences to explore and interpret the natural world and current ecological issues, our program has brought 277 artists to our site. This calendar highlights works here from across 17 years; three of the works are still with us today, continuing to evolve with our site and with time.

We hope this calendar is more than a time marking tool, but something that activates your imagination throughout this year, perhaps inspiring you to notice time and change in your own environment.

So, take a look, support our art program, and order your 2017 calendar today!

tree trunk

Reading Under the Bark

dead treeBy guest contributor Jim Frazer

I’ve been trying to remember what led me to photograph the engraved tracks of bark beetles. I believe that really it was just curiosity about looking for lines and patterns in nature which first drew my attention to the etched pathways of the beetle larvae. Once I became aware of them, they seemed to be everywhere in the woods. In an effort to understand what I was looking at, I did some research, and found out that the beetles’ increased range and activity was due to warming.

Since climate change seemed to come on us slowly at first, it was easy for many people to not notice. We may ask ourselves, what was the first thing that we personally noticed that could be attributed to climate change? Not a prediction from scientists, but something we personally saw or experienced. Not a cause, but a result. For me, the beetle tracks were like this. Of course, we all experience unusual weather, but since, like many people, I’m not living in the place where I grew up, I don’t have a feel for what is really normal for the area. Having someone tell you that last summer was the hottest ever doesn’t mean much if you don’t have memories to compare it to. Seeing something concrete right in front of you is different.

Part of what artists do is to call attention to things that have been overlooked, and do so in a way that causes people to start noticing on their own. We hear many debates in which the opinions of experts are hurled back and forth, but in order for change to happen, people need to be convinced through their personal experience. So I would like to encourage people looking at my work to notice small things they see around them and investigate how they relate to the larger world. I see the beetle tracks as calligraphic characters from an unknown language, hence the title Glyphs. Of course, they don’t have individual, specific meanings, like, say, a Chinese character might have. They are meant to suggest the idea that if we notice our surroundings – our environment – it will speak to us and tell us important things. In this case, the message is the awareness that climate change is causing a different relationship between these insects and the forest, to the detriment of the trees.

Here are both the original picture of a tree trunk and the finished artwork for one of my works in the exhibit. Like a scientist exploring ancient inscriptions, I trace the patterns, first manually, then digitally. The resulting outlines are printed on very thin tissue. Then, just as the beetle larva takes many small bites, I use a paper drill to create a repetitive lace pattern of holes surrounding the outlines. Finally, metallic mica powder is applied inside the outlines, adhered with gilding sizing.

head shotJim Frazer was, in 1981, the first photographer to have a solo exhibit at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, and his hand-colored photographs of Southern landscapes were widely collected and exhibited both regionally and nationally. In 1999, he moved with his family to Salt Lake City and branched out from photography to a diverse practice that focused on mixed media works and collaborative installations. His newest work, though not appearing photographic at first glance, is nevertheless photo based, deriving from images of details taken from the natural world.