The Schuylkill Center
Since our inception in 1965, the Center has been the premier urban environmental education center in the country, working diligently to bring science and environmental education to Philadelphia’s public. Our educational programs are enjoyed by some 30,000 people annually, including 6,000 school children who visit our site for educational experiences. We also operate a wildlife rehabilitation clinic that sees 4,000 injured and orphaned animals annually. Please visit SCEE’s main website for further information and events. www.schuylkillcenter.org
The Environmental Art Department
In keeping with SCEE’s mission, the Environmental Art department encourages artists to create artwork that educates and challenges a visitor’s perspective about the environment, causing them to think more deeply about their own relationship to nature, and become more curious about environmental issues, the first step towards protecting our natural resources. By representing environmental science concepts in art, we provide education that inspires deeper activism that initiates individuals to make changes in their daily lives that impacts the environment.
Now in its twentieth year, our Environmental Art department is unique, the only one of its kind in the region and one of only a few nationwide. The department’s staff presents indoor and outdoor exhibitions showcasing artists who wrestle with environmental concerns, and creates art programs that educate audiences, including underserved populations, about environmental issues. The Art department staff works collaboratively with education, restoration and wildlife clinic staff to make sure the art is fully integrated into our landscape and programming. While other institutions provide outdoor artwork, none in this region seamlessly combines art with cutting-edge science and education, and offers the art completely free to the public.
A New Paradigm for Environmental Art Projects
While SCEE is 340 acres of natural habitat—forests, fields, meadows, ponds, wetlands and streams—this habitat is greatly troubled. Non-native and invasive species crowd out and push aside native plants. Stormwater rushes down our trails from the surrounding city neighborhoods, carving gullies into our forest. Deer over browse our forest, removing shrubs that provide nesting sites to key forest birds; deer selectively remove baby trees, damaging the forest’s succession. Blights are killing oaks, one of the most important trees in our forest. Though we are a lush, green site, our habitat needs our help.
The Environmental Art department embarks on a major departmental paradigm shift, consisting of not just showing art, but presenting exhibitions by an emerging community of artists worldwide that use their art to regenerate, restore and heal damaged ecosystems like our forests. These novel creations are often large scale and long term, providing benefits to our ecosystem while inspiring and educating visitors.
The goal of these projects is to serve the needs of our local ecosystems while enhancing the public’s awareness and knowledge of substantial environmental issues.
One example of the department’s new direction is Stacy Levy’s Rain Yard, a large outdoor artwork funded by the National Endowment for the Arts created at SCEE in 2013. Rain Yard serves two key functions: since our own building’s stormwater runoff damages the forest adjoining our building, it will collect and store stormwater to protect our adjoining forest; it will also become a dynamic interactive teaching tool about how water behaves and its importance in our lives.
These new environmental artworks will help remediate degenerated natural areas within the Center, while educating and engaging the public through positive environmental actions. Audiences will learn about environmental issues from these artworks, and also have the opportunity to participate in their creation.