A Reflection on Making Space for Us

In my role as the Environmental Art Intern, I had the great opportunity to go through each and every one of the photos that were submitted to the amazing kaleidoscope of nature in the exhibition “Citizen’s Eye.” In the process of sorting through them, I had time to reflect on these snapshots, and on my own experiences in the outdoors throughout the pandemic. While there are many beautiful and eye-catching images, the ones that stood out to me most were those that documented time spent with other people. When I reflect on the time I spent outside over the last year, I am reminded of the close friends and family that I share these memories with. In a time of being hyper-aware of the spaces around us, nature provided a refuge and became the setting for all kinds of gathering. A place where we could still spend time with each other while also maintaining the distance we needed apart from each other to be safe and respectful.

Nature Preschool at the Schuylkill Center by Rose Hammerman

What I see when I look through these images is a process of placemaking. Each photograph documents a way in which we are embedding emotional significance and new meaning into our natural environments. When we give these spaces new life, making them significant locations for living, gathering and communicating, we have transformed them into a place. While indoor spaces closed their doors to gathering, we turned to the outdoors to create new places to create memories. Celebration, exploration, connection, learning, mourning and many more rituals all took place in natural environments. Restaurants looked at parking lots and sidewalks and imagined new places for dining. This process was important in 2020. Natural placemaking reflected our needs to adjust to the circumstances, and it also reconnected us to a natural world that we are often at odds with. Whether or not you spent much time in the outdoors before the pandemic, your view of natural space definitely changed during the pandemic.

My hope is that post-pandemic, however that future looks, we will continue this process and continue to embed meaning into our natural spaces, whether it be the patch of grass on the sidewalk or the forest you went hiking through. Many were already doing this long before Covid-19 took ahold of our attention, but for others, time in quarantine allowed us to be more reflective and more presently focused on processes like this. We found a need to create new places, not by building or defining a space, but by being intentionally aware of what a space means to us and the memories that are connected to it.

Photo by CJ Walsh

 I am glad to look through this collection of images and view the many ways in which we think about nature, both big and small, as important to our lives during a time of crisis and turmoil. As we imagine what futures await us, it is important to uphold these processes presently, and to imagine how natural space and its significance to us fits into these imagined futures.


By CJ Walsh, Environmental Designer and former Art Intern at the Schuylkill Center.


A New Lens on Nature: Community photos in “Citizen’s Eye”

It almost could be another tree, except for the ears. Look a little closer and you realize it’s a deer, stock-still and staring at you through the morning mist. As autumn leaves rustle, its silent appraisal reminds you: you are not alone. These woods are a shared space.

This encounter is captured in a photo by Peter DeStefano, one he submitted to the upcoming community show, “Citizen’s Eye — A Kaleidoscope of Nature.” More than 400 photos taken by over 200 people—Schuylkill Center staff, members, volunteers, neighbors, friends—document surprising encounters with nature from the past 10 months. Every photo is included in the exhibition, making for a truly kaleidoscopic display.

Photo by Peter DeStefano, submitted to “Citizen’s Eye”

Director of Environmental Art Tina Plokarz and her team have been sorting through these images, arranging them in our gallery, while looking for patterns. Some photos show structures of bridges and buildings; many are close-ups of animals or plants. They all come from a heightened sense of awareness to our natural surroundings and a willingness to stop and focus on smaller things. Taking such a photograph of nature requires that you not just move through the world but slow down enough to notice it. That you become a reciprocal part of it and live in it.

While each image reflects its photographer’s interest, collectively they begin to tell a story, one that begins with people going out to find nature—whether for peace, solitude, or recreation—and discovering that it’s always right beside them. Nature with a capital ‘N’ may conjure up romantic notions of sublime landscapes in National Parks, grand mountains, and expansive deserts. But nature with a lowercase ‘n’ encompasses everything around us. It’s “the small things we’re experiencing every day,” Tina says. “It’s not only about blooming flowers, it is also about the little weed on the sidewalk.” 

A number of photos feature kids and adults outside—playing, building, exploring, living. Some are posed; some are candid; one is a silhouette. “When we really think about ‘nature’ and where this term comes from,” Tina says, “we quickly see that it’s not only the ‘natural world’—it’s also our world context, it’s also our body, it’s our human interaction with the environment. And I think that’s what I was really interested in seeing through other people’s eyes.”

Photo by Walther Vera, submitted to “Citizen’s Eye”

Nature is also around us, inevitably, in death. One particularly striking photo is of a funeral with masked mourners holding big red umbrellas and carrying a casket down the street. At first, it may seem like it doesn’t belong in a show of nature photography. But it made Tina consider how other nature photos capture death and decay. Several images, for instance, show mushrooms sprouting from dying trees. The rotting wood provides the nutrients necessary to grow a network of fungi that spreads throughout the forest—itself an offering to trees and a vital connection between them. “It’s this circle of life,” she says, “and death is part of our lives.” 

Photo by Peter Handler, submitted to “Citizen’s Eye”

That topic of death is “hard to grapple with as it relates to the pandemic,” Tina says. But that’s why offering a place for people to share their experiences with nature is so powerful. “I think it allows us a space for grief, and for thinking how, when a tree is dying, it is not dying, it is just transforming into something else.”

Ultimately everything in nature is interconnected, everything shared. “Citizen’s Eye” reflects this in its community display, ready to welcome you in and transform your own encounters with nature.


“Citizen’s Eye —A Kaleidoscope of Nature” will be available to view in person in our gallery and online from January 21– March 21, 2021. Join us for a virtual opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 pm for a conversation with mythologist and social practice artist Li Sumpter Ph.D., John Heinz National Wildlife refuge manager Lamar Gore, and designer CJ Walsh, moderated by Tina Plokarz. For more information and to register, visit: https://www.schuylkillcenter.org/blog/event/citizens-eye-a-kaleidoscope-of-nature/


—By Emily Sorensen


LandLab Dream Journal

LandLab Dream Journal 

Guest post by LandLab Artist Kate Farquhar


Editor’s Note: LandLab is the Schuylkill Center’s environmental art residency program. Kate Farquhar was named a resident artist in 2017 and recently wrapped up her project, titled Synestates. She installed a series of three sculptures on the Schuylkill Center’s trails – come visit us to see them. This blog post is Kate’s reflection on time at the Schuylkill Center and a peek into her creative process.


I’m currently wrapping up my LandLab residency at the Schuylkill Center: a chapter in my relationship to a place that I will always treasure. Ten years ago I visited the Schuylkill Center when I was deciding whether or not to move to Philadelphia. Six years ago I helped with the Schuylkill Center master planning design effort led by Salt Design Studio. I’m excited to begin my next chapter and explore the woods, meadows, water bodies and trails with fresh eyes. Looking for … medicinal plants, bird calls, old friends? Time will tell. 


Reflecting on my LandLab residency, there remains a small corner that I’d like to share with you. To guide my work throughout the residency, I’ve filled a watercolor journal with notes and ideas. In my pursuit of habitat, infrastructure and myth, most of the mythical connections seem to live in those pages. The sculptures I built include vine trellis sculptures by the Pine Grove, floating forms in Wind Dance Pond, and pollinator habitat at the River Connector trail. While I built in solitude, I often imagined fictional rituals that could connect people to the sculptures, accessories to environmental play and novel ways to spend the day at the Schuylkill Center. Take a peek at a few pages recording the associations and fantasies that came to me throughout the process, and persist in the dream-lives of these sculptures. 



Watercolor journal_1Watercolor journal_2Watercolor journal_3Watercolor journal_4Watercolor journal_5Watercolor journal_6


About 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.

Kate Farquhar’s Synestates: Art, Nature, and Humans

by Communications Intern Charlotte Roach 
As you wander the trails of the Schuylkill Center, you may notice some objects that look a little out-of-place. What are those chains doing hanging from those tree branches? What are those white geometric shapes on the surface of Wind Dance Pond? Those objects are art installations, part of our LandLab environmental art residency, created by resident artist Kate Farquhar. Kate is a Philadelphia-based environmental artist and landscape architect with a passion for green design. Her series is called Synestates, and its purpose it to explore how human-made building materials can interact with nature.

pvines, located on Pine Grove Loop, is the first of two works Kate has installed so far. The piece is made out of steel chains, intertwined with capillary fabric and sunbursts of plastic straws, draped over the branches of an Amur cork tree. The purpose of pvines is to encourage a native vine, Virginia creeper, to climb up the chains. Capillary fabric has the special property of being able to wick water upwards against gravity. Thus, the fabric provides the vines with a source of water. 


In landscape design, rain chains are often used as alternatives to downspouts. Capillary fabric can be used in the building of a plant-covered green wall, which can help insulate a building. Green walls and rain chains are functional, decorative, and artistic, and Kate has brought these materials unexpectedly into nature to help create new habitat. The plastic straws in pvines are arranged in an aesthetically appealing way, and have even become homes for various types of insects like spiders and earwigs. 

The second of Kate’s installations is called dolmbale, located on Wind Dance Pond. It is comprised of dense white foam cut into geometric cubes and pyramids. These shapes parallel the molecular structure of nitrogen, phosphorus, and salt. These three substances cause some of the most significant water pollution issues that Pennsylvania faces. An excess of nutrients in the water causes a huge spike in growth for bacteria and algae in a phenomenon known as an algal bloom. The bacteria and algae consume a lot of oxygen, leading to the water becoming depleted of oxygen for other organisms to use. This is known as hypoxia, and it’s lethal for aquatic life. dolmbale’s goal is to raise awareness of nutrient pollution in waterways. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and salt molecules are far, far too tiny to see, but their effects are massive, and clearly visible to the naked eye. Kate’s work imagines if we could see nutrient molecules themselves in a size that’s proportionate to their impact: huge. 


To accompany the Styrofoam shapes, Kate collected water quality data on Smith Run (one of two streams on the Schuylkill Center property) as part of a larger citizen science initiative to gather information about water pollution in Pennsylvania. Under smaller versions of her floating cubes, Kate installed leaf packs, which gathered a community of aquatic macroinvertebrates over time. (Aquatic macroinvertebrates = little critters living in the water that you can see unaided, without a microscope). Then, Kate observed, counted, and identified the organisms she caught in the leaf packs. The basis of the method is that some little bugs are more pollution-tolerant than others. For example, leeches can handle just about anything. You may find leeches in filthy, heavily-polluted water, but also in clean water, so the presence of leeches doesn’t definitively indicate clean or dirty water. On the other side of the spectrum, mayflies are delicate little guys, and they need pure, clean water to survive. If you find mayfly larvae in your water, that’s a sure sign the water is relatively free of pollutants. This method is practically universal and can be used to compare pollution levels across regions. It’s not precise, but it’s far more accessible to citizen scientists than expensive machinery. All you need is a body of water, a net, and a key to identify critters. 

The data Kate gathered at the Schuylkill Center can be seen here if you zoom into Philadelphia on the interactive map: https://leafpacknetwork.org/data/ Happily, Smith Run received Good or Excellent scores at all three of her sample sites. Check out Stroud Water Research Center’s Leaf Pack Network to learn more about how you can set up your own leaf pack experiment.

Kate’s third Synestates piece, called urlog, will be installed in late summer 2019. urlog will be “a heap of undead wood manipulated to host new seedlings and native pollinators side-by-side”, in Kate’s words. Look forward to seeing urlog in a few weeks, and in the meantime, come observe pvines on Pine Grove Loop and dolmbale on Wind Dance Pond! Ponder the significance of humans and our by-products in the natural world as you enjoy lovely art and scenery. Also, check out this post for some concept art and behind-the-scenes of Synestates as well as some of Kate’s past work, including a spectacular green roof for Urban Outfitters’ Philly HQ! 

Community: Behind-the-Scenes

by Sam Bromberg, Environmental Art and Communications Intern

In the gray winter months, Community has brought a refreshing splash of vibrancy to the Schuylkill Center. Our gallery bursts with color and texture, from chunky knits to intricate wood carvings to sleek photography.


The diversity of the show is the product of a collaborative community effort,  speaking to the impressive creativity and talent of our Schuylkill Center members, neighbors, staff, volunteers, and friends. The start-to-finish creation of this exhibition was a fruitful process. So, how did we go from bare white walls to the captivating display that’s transformed the gallery? Here’s the inside scoop.

Clockwise from top left: Shannon Cronin, Maura Matthews, Paul S. Stetzer, Jr., Andrew Cherashore, Laura Eyring, Stephanie Weinger

edited for web

Artwork by Linnie Greenberg

This rendition of Community is its second presentation at the Schuylkill Center, the first being in 2017. Once again, local artists were invited to submit one to three pieces of all shapes, sizes, and mediums, with works related to nature and the environment or depicting the Schuylkill Center itself of special interest. The enormous outpouring of participants came as a welcomed, celebrated shock, but one that required some rearrangingmanaging over 90 artists is a tall task. The artist participation almost tripled from our first Community show! In an effort to conform to spatial restraints, artists were asked to choose just a single piece to display.

edited for web (2)
Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Brady, Elisa Sarantschin, Peter Salera, Barbara Dirnbach

Artwork by Jess Levine

Once the pieces to be exhibited were finalized, the daunting but rewarding task of installation was upon us. Fitting color and pattern together with material and tone and subject took thoughtful consideration. Though the show was wholly uncurated, the distinctive works compliment each other in perhaps surprising coordination largely thanks to the skillful visions of Exhibitions Coordinator Liz Jelsomine and Director of Art Christina Catanese. They deliberately, perceptively placed each piece on the walls, in Plexiglas displays, on carefully mounted shelves.     

Artwork by Jamie Coyle

edited for web (1)
Artwork by Sarah “Wolfie” Strub

We compiled short biographies, artists’ statements, lists of materials describing mediums, and desired price tags. In the chaos inherent to exhibition preparations, the show slowly began taking form, emerging as a unique display of our community’s capabilities and passions. After finishing touchesthe unglamorous work of sweeping and last-minute wall spacklingwe were ready for the big reveal. Abuzz with excitement, the gallery’s opening reception was a night to celebrate the artists with friends, family, and a potluck-style meal.



Community will be on display in the gallery until April 27, with many of the artworks for sale and a portion of the proceeds going to the Schuylkill Center. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to show your support and experience our community’s talent!

Nature & Art Exhibitions in the Region: Field Trips with Schuylkill Center Art Staff

Collaboratively written by Lauren Bobyock (former Art + Communications Intern,) Liz Jelsomine (Exhibitions Coordinator), and Christina Catanese (Director of Environmental Art)

Though artists have always been inspired by nature, with the growing awareness of climate change and other ecological crises, an increasing number engage with themes of nature, landscape, and how people and culture connect to them. Over the past few seasons, several exhibitions in our region explored these ideas and the Schuylkill Center environmental art staff took a few field trips to enrich our thinking.

Natural Wonders at the Brandywine River Museum

The relationship between beauty and the sublime is complex. Last fall, the Brandywine River Museum of Art examined this relationship in Natural Wonders: The Sublime in Contemporary Art. During our visit, Schuylkill Center staff pondered how the Brandywine produced this exhibition, which speaks to the state of nature in the world.


The show was a flowing, engaging experience throughout. Thirteen artists participated in the show and work ranged from miniatures to 3D printing.



I recognized one of the artist’s miniature work from a larger installation (located in Center City, Philadelphia at 16th & Chancellor Streets). The piece has since closed, but once covered an entire building side (pictured below.) The artist, Patrick Jacobs, had a mural of a dandelion field painted on the side of a building, and upon closer inspection, viewers came across a tiny peep hole, revealing what looked to be a vast landscape of dandelions in the countryside.

Photo from West Collection

Photo from patrickjacobs.info

While the work in this show was undoubtedly beautiful, even peaceful, the museum’s write-up of said that a closer look revealed “a menace can be found lurking within most of the work in Natural Wonders, and this danger often stems from human intervention.”

Issues ranged from species extinction and cultivation of wilderness to designer breeding. Some pieces demanded your attention, like the large videos playing in the gallery, or artificial flowers up to your waist. Other works pulled you in, requiring more detailed inspection, such as the little forests and flowing water barely peeking through old suitcase trunks.


blog8Maya Lin’s Pin River challenged traditional ways of mapping. Instead of highlighting land with water being a part of the landscape, Lin mapped and highlighted the Hudson River as the main focus. Lin mapped only the water bodies themselves, removing other geographic reference points and letting the water’s shape and path stand on its own. In the case of the Hudson, the choice of nails was especially significant given the legacy of heavy metal pollution in the river.


The Pennsylvania Landscape in Impressionism and Contemporary Art at the Woodmere Art Museum

What interests me most is the ability for human relationships with nature to be visible through art, whether intended or not. The Pennsylvania Landscape in Impressionism and Contemporary Art at the Woodmere Art Museum that was on view September 2018January 2019. The Woodmere Museum said, “juxtapositions of paintings and works in other media reveal how artistic practice has evolved and social context has become urgent in ways that could not have been imagined in the past.”

This exhibition included pieces from over a hundred years ago, as well as work made in recent years. Pieces began as traditional works. Artistic views regarding nature and the social landscape at the time could be seen. Over time, a shift to contemporary happened, where the views of artists remained present, yet were specific to challenges and outlooks we have with the environment today. Work also specifically focused on the Pennsylvania landscape. As a result, shifts in relationships towards the land were made especially clear.

We were delighted to see work in the show by artists we’ve had the pleasure of working with at the Schuylkill Center, including 3D videos by Pete Rose. Layering multiple views of populated areas in the city, such as a skatepark, Rose placed viewers in the space and provided them with a closer look at the people and activities happening there. Sandy Sorlien is no stranger to the Schuylkill Center and also displayed images from her INLAND project in our gallery. Sorlien photo documented the 200-year-old abandoned Schuylkill Navigation system that once literally fueled the Industrial Revolution.

Natural Wonders at the Brandywine River Museum and The Pennsylvania Landscape in Impressionism and Contemporary Art at the Woodmere Art Museum both exhibited art that depicts people relating to the environment, displaying the change in those relationships over time. While it may not always be intended or overt, art shows perspectives that individuals have towards our natural world, society, politics, and beyond.

Knit and Crochet for Climate Change

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

There’s just something about climate change. Despite the fact that predictions grow more dire by the day, it doesn’t feel like an emergency. It can be hard to wrap our minds around something so big and abstract. So how can it become more personal, tangible, visceral?

A group of knitters has one ideaby applying their craft to climate change data.

The Tempestry Project (https://www.tempestryproject.com/about) is global climate data visualization through fiber arts. A Tempestry is a wall hanging, or temperature tapestry, that represents the daily high temperature for a given year and location, with January at the bottom and December at the topthink of it like a bar graph. The Tempestry Project was founded by Justin Connelly, Marissa Connelly, and Emily McNeil in Anacortes, WA.

All Tempestries use the same yarn colors and temperature ranges, creating an immediately recognizable and globally comparable mosaic of shifting temperatures over time. If the high temperature is a roasty 96 degrees, the row for that day will be Cranberry, a rich red. If the polar vortex has just come through and the high is just 11 degrees, that row will be Fjord. The illustrative names of the yarn colors are an additional delight.

I’m a hybrid science/art person already, plus an avid knitter, so I couldn’t be more excited by this project. I finished my first Tempestry this winter. I chose 2017 in Cooksburg, PA, the year and place where my husband and I got married. I even knitted in a little silver thread for our actual wedding day; with an 84 degree high, it was a lovely row of Papaya.

People all over the world are making these Tempestries, assembling a global mosaic of shifting temperature patterns, row by wooly row. It’s gratifying to be part of a connected global network of fiber artists putting their energy toward raising awareness, and I found that the mindfulness of knitting and sitting with this global challenge helped me process my own feelings about it.  

A single Tempestry is meaningful on its own as a snapshot, a moment in time, a commemoration. But a collection of Tempestries reveals change over time. What if we had a whole slew of Tempestries for one place? Would we visually see the shift, as models predict for Philadelphia, to a hotter, wetter world?

During 2019, the Schuylkill Center will coordinate a collection of Tempestries that show daily maximum temperature data over several years for Philadelphia. The collection will be on long-term display at the Schuylkill Center to educate about how climate change is impacting our region.

We are seeking knitters and crocheters to get involved in creating this collection! To get involved, please contact me, Christina Catanese, at christina@schuylkillcenter.org or 215-853-6269.

We’ll be holding a kickoff meeting this spring for interested crafters to learn how to start making a Philadelphia Tempestry and assemble and distribute yarn kits for the collection.

More information on the Philadelphia Tempestry collection: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/art/?ha_exhibit=tempestry-project-philadelphia-collection


Update 3/19/19: We have received an amazing response to this project and currently have more than enough volunteers to knit/crochet Tempestries complete our 30 piece collection!  But there are still ways you can get involved.

  • Contact Christina to be added to the list of alternates, in case any of our current team is not able to complete their Tempestries.
  • Help assemble yarn kits for knitters – contact Christina for more information on this, and note whether you have access to a digital scale that measures in grahams and/or a ball winder.
  • Make a donation to the Schuylkill Center to support this project: visit https://schuylkillcenter.pivvit.com/make-a-gift and include “Tempestry Project” in the notes field.
Other Tempestry collections are in the works for knitters and crocheters to contribute to as well:

Photos courtesy of the Tempestry Project





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


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.











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.

Stream Water Gathering

Stream Water Gathering








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.

Stream Gathering

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.

Stream Gathering

Stream Gathering








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.

Stream Water GatheringStream Water Gathering








Stream Water Gathering

Stream Water GatheringStream Water Gathering








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!

Stream Water Gathering

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

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

Rain Yard

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.