2017-2018 Resident Artist:
During LandLab, artists from Dance Exchange explored Philadelphia’s waterways through movement exploration with visitors and local artists and scientists, culminating in installation and performance at the Schuylkill Center. Civilization begins and ends at the river’s edge. Where land meets water, many human stories are told, histories are revealed and concealed, futures are envisioned, debated, and denied. The history and future of the Schuylkill River is one central to the story of our country and of southeastern Pennsylvania, and the implications of our relationship to the river are vital to our understanding of how we continue to care for our environment.
Through this residency, Cassie Meador (Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange) led a new project that explored the relationship between land and water. Meador collaborated 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 used interdisciplinary dancemaking to move community members from a place of observation to participation to active stewardship.
LandLab is an environmental art residency program that integrates art, ecological restoration, and public engagement, and is a joint project of the Schuylkill Center and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA). LandLab is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Joseph Robert Foundation. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.
Remembering Water’s Way Performance – October 2018
Led by Cassie Meador, in collaboration with Christina Catanese, Elizabeth Johnson, Zeke Leonard, Marcie Mamura, Sarah Marks Mininsohn, Talia Mason, Jame McCray, and Kelly Mitchell
Culminating a year of research and art making at the Schuylkill Center, Dance Exchange 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. Nearly 50 people attended these events over the course of the weekend.
For the installation component of their work, sticks and invasive grasses were gathered locally and woven into fascines, which have been placed in the landscape to redirect water and retain soil during increasingly frequent rain events. A fascine is a bundle of sticks used to protect land from erosion. These art installations were created in response to observing similar structures used by land stewardship staff on our property. The fascines were carried and installed as part of the performance and community walks in October 2018.
Dance Exchange also facilitated public engagement opportunities over the spring and summer, engaging many more people in the process of creation. Learn more about their visit to the Schuylkill Center in April, 2018: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/blog/moving-field-guides-dance-and-learn-at-naturepalooza/
Read more about Remembering Water’s Way in our blog post written by Christina Catanese, the Schuylkill Center Director of Environmental Art: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/blog/bodies-of-water-dance-at-the-schuylkill-center/
Cassie Meador, lead artist and Executive Artistic Director of Dance Exchange, also reflected on the project in this blog post: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/blog/reflecting-on-remembering-waters-way-artist-guest-post/
Remembering Water’s Way, October 2018
Erosion controlling sculptures created and installed at Remembering Water’s Way
Remembering Water’s Way video by Byron Karabatsos
Site Visit and Workshop – October 2017
Artists + Collaborators
Dance Exchange is a non-profit dance organization based in Takoma Park, Maryland, known for innovative performance projects and creative practices that engage communities and partners across wide ranging disciplines. Dance Exchange creates performance engagements that speak to the issues of a place and the people that steward that place, collaborating to advance how individuals and communities come together to create change in the world.
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.
Jame McCray is an interdisciplinary ecologist who explores the intersections between ecology, human behavior and the performing arts. While working on her PhD. in ecology and conservation she saw the need for interdisciplinary approaches when creating and implementing environmental policies. Also a dancer and choreographer, she realized the performing arts could bridge the gap between scientific facts and the public consciousness. Jame, who helped us lead arts-integration residencies with educators and artists, brings the perspective of a scientist and artist and will help lead our measurement practices through the work she is doing around Delaware waterways.
Zeke Leonard is an assistant professor in the Syracuse University School of Design and a member of the Environmental and Interior Design faculty. His research involves the role of social responsibility and environmental stewardship in contextually-relevant design and fabrication practices. His ongoing project, Salt City Found-Object Instrument Works, mobilizes his community-based sustainability efforts through interactive musical objects and installations. Engaging this diverse team is necessary for the success of our project. Zeke, a long-time collaborator, brings a design practice that will lead the process in creating a site-responsive installation and that engages communities in conversations of sustainability and stewardship.