Reflecting on Remembering Water’s Way: Artist Guest post

By Cassie Meador, Choreographer/Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange

Editor’s note: The LandLab resident artists of 2017-2018 (including this Dance Exchange project along with Kate Farquhar and Jan Mun) will be featured in a gallery exhibition at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, opening with a reception on January 10, 2019. More information at: https://www.cfeva.org/events/cfeva-exhibitions/landlab2019

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Over this past year, I have been working with the Schuylkill Center as part of their LandLab Residency program to address an environmental challenge through dancemaking and community participation.

On our first research walk at the center, I noticed several large bundles of sticks being used to slow waters movement across the land and to collect debris that might otherwise end up in the Schuylkill River. We learned that these curious bundles are called fascines. I was struck by the fact that each stick individually does very little on its own; it is the aggregate of them that holds the strength and ability to slow and divert the powerful force of water.

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As part of the walking and performance tours we shared at the Schuylkill Center, we built a loom with designer Zeke Leonard to create large weavings of sticks and native plants. These were then rolled, bundled, and carried on our shoulders as audiences followed us in and through the woods. We placed the fascines in areas impacted by increased storm occurrences due to the warming climate; they will help slow the water that is cutting through and eroding the land.

DSC_0234-925x614The fascine has been useful to consider as we reflect on the times we live in, and our response to a changing planet. We know that strength can be found in the the ways we come together, that this will require us to slow down at times, and that our collective action can move us in directions that offer resilience and strength to each other and our communities.

As you view the fascines in the CFEVA gallery or on the Schuylkill Center’s grounds (along the Fox Glen Trail), we invite you to reflect on a moment in your own experience when the coming together of many has offered the resilience and strength to move in new directions.  

"Dance Exchange  has allowed me to be part of the creation of spaces where people can interface with environmental issues in non-traditional ways. Spaces where people can ask questions and search for answers in community, not just by talking but by moving as well. It's a powerful combination". --Jame McCray, Interdisciplinary Ecologist and Remembering Water’s Way collaborator

“Dance Exchange has allowed me to be part of the creation of spaces where people can interface with environmental issues in non-traditional ways. Spaces where people can ask questions and search for answers in community, not just by talking but by moving as well. It’s a powerful combination”. –Jame McCray, Interdisciplinary Ecologist and Remembering Water’s Way collaborator

Remembering Water’s Way was the culmination of a year of research and art making with Dance Exchange and communities connected to the Schuylkill Center as part of the LandLab residency.  The artists led a series of animated hikes on our trails that connect participants to local ecology and reflect on the ways that water shapes our lives. These hour-long experiences wove together performance, installation, science engagements, and other opportunities, surfacing concerns and questions about the Schuylkill River and local waterways, and contributing to our understandings about the impacts of climate change on the region. The project was led by choreographer Cassie Meador in collaboration with Christina Catanese, Elizabeth Johnson, Zeke Leonard, Marcie Mamura, Sarah Marks Mininsohn, Talia Mason, Jamē McCray, and Kelly Mitchell. Watch a video documenting the project here.

About the author: Cassie Meador is a choreographer, performer, educator, writer and Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange. Her works have tackled numerous social and environmental issues, like How To Lose a Mountain, which reflects on a 500-mile walk Meador took from Washington, DC to a mountaintop removal mining site in West Virginia to trace the impacts of the energy that fuel her home. Meador’s Moving Field Guides, an interactive outdoor experience led by artists, naturalists and regional experts in ecology, is being implemented nationwide in partnership with the USDA Forest Service. Meador has taught and created dances in communities throughout the U.S. and internationally in Japan, Canada, England, Ireland, and Guyana. She has worked with the Girl Scouts to enhance environmental curricula through the arts. Her work with Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment has influenced educators and students to embrace a cross-disciplinary approach to conservation and environmental education.

Autumnal Stream Walk

By Lauren Bobyock, Communications and Environmental Art Intern 

It was the perfect fall day to get a little lost in the woods. There are two parallel streams running through the valleys at the Schuylkill Center Meigs and Smith Runs and that day two teams of staff and volunteers set out to learn more about them. On an artistic and scientific mission, we began this journey to contribute to our latest environmental art gallery exhibit by Stacy Levy: Braided Channel.

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Stacy Levy is an environmental artist with installations all over the world including the Schuylkill Center (read more here). Levy’s vision for Braided Channel includes multiple video screens that display a sample of her site-based works in action. Additionally, she organized this gathering of water samples to construct a “water library” of sorts to tell the story of these local streams. Our findings unearthed details about Meigs and Smith Runs that we never would have understood without delving further into them.

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We began near Hagy’s Mill road and followed both streams down to the Schuylkill River Trail, taking a water sample approximately every 130 feet. Both teams began this journey with a bit of bushwhacking to find our starting points. It quickly turned into a lot of bushwhacking with the realization that we literally had our skin in the game! Our spirits high, we sojourned on, delighted to spend several hours in the woods. The time passed quickly as we filled our backpacks with Ziploc bags of water samples as we drank in the splendor of the forest and stream.

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With 340 acres to explore, it’s easy to overlook our two stream corridors. Especially since most of the streams are off limits except for two access points on Smith Run for educational purposes; a condition of the conservation easement on the property.  There is no trail to Meigs Run. Ravine Loop offers ample opportunity to enjoy a view of Smith Run, although we ask visitors to remain on the trail to avoid damaging these sensitive habitats.

With special permission from the Land and Facilities Department we were able explore these unique sections of the property for the exhibit.  Our walks led us to note some important discoveries about these streams and the land surrounding them. We found four-foot high clay banks, gravel bars, and massive bedrock carved by the continual flow of water. Old deer fencing from abandoned restoration projects lay upon beautiful open hillsides. We experienced changing elevations and temperatures as we moved from forested canopy to open clearings. We met crayfish, frogs, and even a snake along the way. Our discoveries included sites of mass erosion, crumbling stone foundations, lots of moss, dams, and boulder-sized quartz rocks. All of our findings led us to a deeper understanding of the hydrology of the forest and we documented it for Stacy Levy’s display.

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There was much to note on our journey and our efforts were an important contribution to Levy’s exhibit. Braided Channel is open in the gallery now through February 2nd. Stop in to see the water samples and learn more about our discoveries!

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Art as Environmental Leadership: Stacy Levy to receive the Meigs award

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

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Every year, the Schuylkill Center gives the Henry Meigs Environmental Leadership Award to a deserving environmental professional for leaving a meaningful and lasting impact on their community and our region, and embodying a spirit of leadership, integrity, and vision.

In twelve years, we’ve never given this honor to an environmental artistbut that changes this year. On November 7th, Stacy Levy will be presented the Meigs award for her pioneering work joining the worlds of art and science throughout her career of creating compelling artwork, both site-specific and gallery-based.

In Levy’s words, she “use[s] art as a vehicle for translating the patterns and processes of the natural world.” Today, creating novel modes of revealing natural systems and solving ecological challenges have become critical, and artists have an important role to play in connecting people with nature. Levy is among the preeminent environmental artists working today, and is unmatched in the elegance with which her work reveals ecological processes that otherwise may go unnoticed.

She has broken new ground in working not just in but with the environment. Along with showing how nature works, Levy has created many projects that solve environmental issues in a place. For an example of this, we need look no further than out the back door of our Visitor Center, where we can experience Rain Yard, Levy’s 2013 artwork which manages stormwater runoff from our roof. Operating in this intersection, Levy has a spirit of collaboration and uncanny ability to galvanize community members and specialists across disciplines.

After being presented the award, Levy will be joined by a panel for a discussion on the intersection of art, science, and the environment particularly through the lens of water. Then, we’ll celebrate the opening of a new installation by Levy in our gallery with a reception.

We recognize that environmental leadership can take many forms, and in this year’s Meigs award, look forward to celebrating how artists can shine as environmental leaders.

 

 

Bodies of Water: Dance at the Schuylkill Center

By Christina Catanese

 

This weekend, the Schuylkill Center will be presenting Remembering Water’s Way by Dance Exchange, the first site-specific dance event that the Center has commissioned in over a decade.

Dance Exchange is a DC-area arts organization that has been one of the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab artists in residence over the past year.  The goal of the LandLab residency is for artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation. So we tasked these performers to also create art-based installations that prevent or remediate environmental damage, and it’s exciting to see how they have responded to the challenge.

Dance Exchange’s work engaging individuals and communities in dancemaking and creative practices is driven by these four questions:

Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is the dancing about? Why does it matter?

When Dance Exchange was selected for this residency, I was excited to discover what the answers to these questions might be in the context of our work connecting people with nature.

The culmination of Dance Exchange’s research and artmaking will take place on October 13th and 14th with animated hikes through our grounds that follow the story of water. Exploring ponds, streams, erosion-prevention efforts, and impacts from recent storm events, these hour-long experiences will weave together performance, installation, science engagements, and more. Think guided nature walk punctuated by performed dance in the landscape, with led opportunities to interpret information (both scientific and sensory) into your own body and in collaboration with others.

One of Dance Exchange’s core beliefs is that anybody can and should dance, which is why the dancers not only perform for the audience, but get everyone moving. (Even those who claim to have two left feet.) The artists guide us through ways to embody the scientific concepts that we’re learning about. They also value intergenerational exchangeso all ages are welcome! This walk will give people across generations the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding ofand connection totheir local environment and community. Through this immersive experience, participants will activate their senses and observation skills through an artistic and ecological approach to discovery. Activities are designed to move participants along a path of recognition, appreciation, and stewardship of the environment. There will even be ways in which the performers will contribute to our land restoration work through the performance.

The title, Remembering Water’s Way, comes from a recognition that the land has a memory of how water has flowed through it, and an acknowledgement of how we can reconsider our relationship to the land to be guided by water rather than trying to fight it. Over the course of the walk, many stories of water will be explored (locally on the Schuylkill Center’s grounds as well as in the context of our regional watershed), including the impact of recent rains and ever-more intense storms that our region has experienced this summer.

As a dancer and choreographer myself, I’m excited by how we can use our bodies in nature to reframe and activate a site. By positioning human bodies in the landscape and experiencing it with all senses, perhaps we can start to see and feel ourselves as slightly more connected to nature, rather than separate.

So, my answers to the Dance Exchange questions so far are 1) everyone; 2) anywhere; 3) information from many realms outside of dance; and 4) because it helps bring us closer to that content, and to each other. But you may have your own answers (and more questions) after experiencing their work.

Please join us for Remembering Water’s Way this weekend. The walk will be offered four times over the course of the weekend, at 11am and 2pm on both Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14. The guided walk will descend some elevation; good walking shoes are recommended. Keep an eye on the Schuylkill Center’s website and social media for any weather-related changes.

NATURAL SELECTIONS: Art in the Open: Selections from 2018 at the Schuylkill Center

By Christina Catanese

A mysterious, vine-woven figure recently appeared behind the Schuylkill Center’s Visitor Center building. Though lacking facial features or limbs per se, it feels human-ish and appears to gaze over the hill into the forest.

This sculpture, created by Brooklyn-based artist Anki King, was the first piece from our fall exhibition to be installed this summer. King harvested vines from the Schuylkill Center property while they were still growing strong in the height of the August growing season for maximum benefit to the ecosystem as well as pliability.

Over the next few weeks, nine more artists will install their work in our environmental art gallery before the show officially opens on Sept. 13. Their work spans a diverse range of practices and materials – along with this vine sculpture, there will be on display wet plate collodion photography, weavings from discarded textiles, ceramic tiles with embroidery details, drawings, polaroids, cyanotypes, printed monotypes and more.

What these works have in common is that all of the artists were 2018 participants in Art in the Open, a public art program in which selected artists create their work on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Banks for three days. We are pleased to be offering these artists the opportunity to adapt their work to our spaces, continuing our partnership with this citywide program for the third time.

Akin to King, Sivan Ilan utilized unconventional materials in her work, challenging their typical perception as waste or undesirable materials. A master’s student in textile design at Philadelphia University, she created large woven panels made exclusively from scrap fabric found in the university’s studios.

Mia Rosenthal and Christopher Wood present different kinds of drawings which shed light on how a place participates in the drawings themselves.

Rosenthal created detailed ink drawings of items that she found on the ground on the River Trail, as well as in her neighborhood playground. These meticulous portraits of local detritus reveal something about the character of their place.

Wood, in addition to continuing his Daydrawing series (in which he has completed a new powdered graphite drawing each day since Jan. 1, 2016), experimented with ways that the environment could participate in the drawings. He left paper with graphite in various locations on the trail, sometimes weighted with different objects, and allowed the weather and place to shape the material.

Looming large in the room will be a place-specific sculpture transplanted into the gallery by Matt Greco and Chris Esposito. This team participated in Art in the Open for the third time together this year and created an aggrandized form of a bollard – those posts used to secure a ship to a dock with ropes, a ubiquitous element from the Schuylkill River’s shipping history. Blowing this often overlooked object up to a size that cannot be ignored forces reflection on how this industrial legacy may still be felt today.

These works and more draw inspiration from place in a variety of ways, and the particular location of Art in the Open, between the Schuylkill River and the deeply urban built environment of Center City Philadelphia, offers an opportunity for artists to comment on and complicate the relationship between people and nature. Transplanting these works to the Schuylkill Center site, which also borders the River Trail about 10 miles north of the Art in the Open site, gives us a chance to consider these relationships from yet another angle.

Please join us to meet the artists at the opening reception of Art in the Open: Selections from 2018 on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. Enjoy artist talks, light refreshments in the gallery and a short walk to the outdoor installation. Art in the Open: Selections from 2018 will be on view through Oct. 27.

Christina Catanese directs the Schuylkill Center’s environmental art program, tweets @SchuylkillArt. This blog was originally published in the Montgomery News August 29.

Into The Woods

Into The Woods

By Ben Vlam

I spent this summer serving as a Fellow for the Alliance of Watershed Education, representing The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. I’ve been coming to the Schuylkill Center for camp since I was six years old, and I worked here as a CIT/Aftercare Counselor for five summers.

What made this experience so different, other than the actual content of the work, was my awareness and appreciation of what the Schuylkill Center offers. I realized how alive and harmonious this place is and it definitely kept me on my toes, whether I was be sawing through dead trees to move them off the trails, tracking down camp groups for photos, or designing a interpretive signage.

There are a few things I can attribute to the success of The Schuylkill Center. First of all, the staff play a crucial role. This is a place where people really care about each other and the work they’re doing. People were invested in my work and I was invested in other people’s work. You make memories here that last a lifetime.

Another important aspect is the property itself. I walked these trails quite a bit while I was planning, writing about, and filming videos of a watershed loop. I found myself taking breaks just to sit at the ponds and listen for different kinds of animals. When I recorded my videos, (check them out here) I just placed the camera down and let it record. I didn’t need to look for specific things because so much was going on around me. Frogs hopping, dragonflies buzzing in and out of the shot, pollinators stopping at flowers.

The last thing that really clicked for me this summer is how all the trails are really connected. Despite me being sort of a lifer, this is the first summer where I really learned these trails like the back of my hand. Knowing the twists and turns, I’ve realized how much of they eventually feed into each other, like tributaries. I found myself at peace and relaxed.

I guess my big takeaway this summer was really to be thankful for everything you have and to try and live without regrets. I’m incredibly thankful for the Schuylkill Center for existing, my co-workers who are now friends, and for the opportunities during this fellowship to teach, laugh, sweat, and most importantly, learn.

I guess my only regret is that this didn’t last longer.

 

 

Watershed Fellow writes Eco-Drama as Summer Project

As a fellow for the Alliance for Watershed Education at the Schuylkill Center, work has felt more like an adventure. Every day I experience something new. From planting trees to picking wineberries, this summer gave me the opportunity to explore my passion for the environment. I got the chance to combine some of my favorite subjects: art, nature, theater, and education. I gained a wealth of knowledge as I supervised campers and taught them what I had learned. I employed my artistic skills as I tracked groups on trails, photographing their expeditions. I also aided Kate Farquhar and laura c carlson in installing their works of art. From helping these creatives, I was exposed to new insights that showed me the distinct overlap between the arts and the environment. The theater that I experienced was a product of my own desire to fuse drama and nature for my Watershed capstone project.

My project began as a survey of the area surrounding the Schuylkill Center. I went online and in-person to find and persuade people to take my survey. The findings illustrated the demographics of the area as well as individual sentiments about nature and diversity. No one had a negative association with either word and the respondents saw both as necessary. I used this information along with my own abilities to inform the second half of my capstone project. While surveying, I began to create a play about watershed education. It is called How the River Flows: an Eco-Drama and is part of an entire packet that seeks to teach and encourage people to put on this performance about nature. This packet will be available at the request of local schools so that they will be able to put on a contemporary play without being charged for the rights. This will promote watershed education in an affordable way that is relatable to people who do not see themselves as environmentalists.

From my two and a half months at the Schuylkill Center, I have learned lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

  • Art is everywhere. It is not just on paper; it surrounds us.
  • Creativity is sometimes the best tool that you can use. It can come in handy when you least expect it.
  • Being practical does not limit your scope of the world. The effectiveness of pragmatism is beautiful because it allows for efficiency

I want to say thank you to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education for gifting me with this valuable knowledge that I will carry on into my future.

 

The Art of Wood Bending

By Carolyn Hesse

Carolyn Hesse is a resident artist part of our summer gallery, Wet Lab, a space for artists and Schuylkill Center visitors to explore and reflect on water in a dynamic environment.

 

For most artists, success is predicated on having enough time to work creatively.

This is true for me as well. Having time to make mistakes—and grow from them—is what drives every endeavor and can be what makes or breaks the spirit. So, to be given the gift of time at the Schuylkill Center was like a jewel that emits light at every angle; a non-objective based chunk of creative time immersed in a woodland setting. Wet Lab was consciously, and generously, set up as an open-ended concept. As result, it became a breath of fresh air in my artistic practice.

I used the time to make pieces for a current body of work that deals with wave and water imagery, titled: (i kept your sea ( i kept it safe)).  Springhouse Pond is down the hill behind the Discovery Center and I used it to soak strips of cedar of different lengths and widths for different amounts of time. I then brought the wood up to the gallery to bend and clamp them around forms where they would dry into the curves of those forms. Or break.

 

Either way, the experience was useful. These are some images of my process.

 

 

If you enjoy them, feel free to check on my website (carolynhessestudio.com) in the near future to see what they become after they’ve been cleaned up, sanded down, and incorporated into new sculptural pieces. My gratitude and appreciation for everyone I came into contact with at SCEE couldn’t be more heartfelt, thank you!

About the Author

Carolyn Hesse is one of our Wet Lab artists whose work is influenced by her time spent working for a wooden boat builder for 11 years. Her work is influenced by traditional wooden boat building techniques and she likes to engage in the idea of suspension, in the literal spatial, chemical sense, and the ephemeral sense related to time. Her pieces explore these concepts through visual repetition as well as reference to the straight line and the horizon. More recently she has been creating pieces that are less formal and more narrative.

 

Wet Lab is the current project in the Schuylkill Center’s gallery, on view until August 18, and is a space for artists and Schuylkill Center visitors to explore and reflect on water in a dynamic environment.  Over the course of the summer, twenty artists are responding to water in a variety of media, and presenting their work and process in our gallery for two to three week periods. Artists display completed works along with works in progress, at times using the gallery as their studio to work through a new idea or test creative hypotheses. Artist Carolyn Hesse participated in Wet Lab for three weeks in June and July, and reflects on her experience in this post.

Naturepalooza Blog

Beautiful weather, hands-on activities, and plenty of exploration marked this year’s annual Earth Day celebration at the Schuylkill Center. Every year, Naturepalooza is held as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival’s Science in the Park event. This year those that came to Naturepalooza enjoyed everything from fort building in our pine tree forest, to interactive environmental science and art activities provided by partner organizations and artists, to hikes and pond explorations. Thanks our many partners that made it such a successful day! If you came to Naturepalooza, we also want to thank you for choosing to celebrate Earth Day with us and hope you left with a smile, new knowledge, and some nature-inspired memories. Comment below with your favorite moments.

Here at the Center, we celebrate Earth Day throughout the year with our education programs, land stewardship efforts, and through the environmental art department. With the start of our busy season right around the corner, there are many opportunities for you to continue to celebrate Earth Day with us as well—whether it be through our summer camp programs, by helping out at our Community Gardens Day on June 16, or by visiting our summer gallery exhibition, Wet Lab. We hope to see you soon.

Moving Field Guides: Learning through Dance at Naturepalooza

“The Moving Field Guide  relies on discovery and observation, which are important skills across all disciplines. It allows nearly all age groups to participate, it promotes critical thinking, it encourages participants to engage their environment, and allows for creative expression.” Jessie L Scott III, Boston Urban Connections Coordinator, USDA Forest Service

 

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Cassie Meador is thrilled to be returning to Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education as part of Naturepalooza, the Center’s Family Earth Day Celebration. As part the festivities, families will get outdoors to learn about local ecology and the ways in which water shapes our lives through a series of movement activities in Cassie Meador’s Moving Field Guide program. Cassie will partner with the Schuylkill Center’s very own environmental educator Eduardo Duenas on two Moving Field Guides during the celebrationat 11am and 12:30 pm. Join them on these interactive nature walk to learn, move, and make new connections to the outdoors and each other through dance.

Cassie, Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange, and a creative team from Dance Exchange will return to the Schuylkill Center this June as part of the LandLab artist residency program. The residency will culminate in September 2018 with an invitation to families and other local folks in the region to join in the creation of a performance and an environmental art installation, reflecting on the ways water shapes, moves, and sustains our lives.

Through the LandLab residency, Cassie Meador will collaborate with Jame McCray, an interdisciplinary ecologist, and Zeke Leonard, an artist who mobilizes community-based sustainability efforts through interactive musical objects and installations. The creative team will use interdisciplinary artmaking approaches to move people from a place of observation to participation to active stewardship.

 

Image credits: Jori Ketton and Schuylkill Center LandLab collection.

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DANCE EXCHANGE

Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador since 2011, Dance Exchange is a non-profit dance organization based in Takoma Park, Maryland. Dance Exchange’s innovative local, national, and international performance projects engage communities and partners across a wide range of disciplines. Dance Exchange ignites inquiry, inspires change, and connects people of all ages more deeply to the questions at the heart of our lives through dancemaking and creative practices by collaborating across generations, disciplines and communities to channel the power of performance as a means for dialogue, a source of critical reflection, and a creative engine for thought and action.Blog image 5

LANDLAB

LandLab is a unique artist residency program that operates on multiple platforms: artistic creation, ecological restoration and education. A joint project of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), LandLab offers resources and space on our 340-acre wooded property for visual artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation.