The ecoartspace blog will feature artist profiles and reviews of exhibitions, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that artists are making in collaboration with scientists, and poetics including spoken word, opera, and performative work. Painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing, and printmaking are all welcome media. Speculative architecture and public art are also encourage. Submissions for posts can be sent to info@ecoartspace.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can access the previous ecoartspace blog HERE (2008-2019)

ecoartspace, LLC

Mailing address: PO Box 5211 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
  • Sunday, May 24, 2020 12:31 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    eco consciousness is the thematic of the inaugural ecoartspace online juried show for our artist and art professional membership levels. The show will be blind juried by Eleanor Heartney, distinguished New York art critic and author.

    Approximately 100 works will be selected for exhibition. Three billboard awards will be given to artists whose work will be presented in the Midwest for three months leading up to the General Election on November 3. The exhibition will be presented as a digital catalogue (PDF), designed to accompany the online show, with an introduction by ecoartspace curators Patricia Watts and Amy Lipton.

    eco consciousness, which is defined as showing concern for the environment, is a broad thematic to offer inclusivity. We, however, are encouraging work that is sensitive to the spiritual and the feminist aspects of our human relationship with nature.

    Artworks selected will be featured online beginning September 1 and will be promoted in our monthly e-Newsletter and our social media channels.

    Entry fee is $35

    APPLY HERE NOW

    READ BARBARA ROSE INTERVIEW WITH HEARTNEY l BROOKLYN RAIL


  • Thursday, May 21, 2020 3:35 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Ashley Dawson, activist and author of People's Power and Extreme Cities was a guest speaker at the ecoartspace The Great Pause Dialogues on May 20, 2020. Here's his 45 minute talk on the links between Climate and the colonial roots of today's pandemic.

  • Monday, May 04, 2020 2:23 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    In a time of pandemic crisis, how do we re-value what care means for all living beings?

    There is a species of moss growing on the outside of my bedroom windowsill that I hadn’t noticed until recently. Two clumps of bryophyllum hiding in the shadow of a ventilation duct that extends to the roof of my apartment building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Known for their love of cool, moist and dark spaces, moss or byrophyte is a phylum of three kinds of non-vascular plants that use rhizoids instead of roots and reproduce using spores. Although an uncommon site in some parts of New York, my windowsill is apparently a desirable habitat and has offered unlikely solace during an increasingly precarious time.

    As a member of the Environmental Performance Agency, an artist collective founded in response to the dismantling of the US Environmental Protection Agency, I have been thinking a lot about the view from my window as of late. From my bedroom, I can see a rapidly expanding border of knotweed encircling a now desolate restaurant patio, a Siberian elm making use of an underused backlot, and a weedy patch of shepherd's purse, plantain, dandelion and horseweed. These marginal spaces offer a habitat for insects, squirrels, birds and other organisms, and more recently has become my only view of urban “nature” or multispecies life.


    In New York, we’ve been on PAUSE since March 22, 2020, a collection of social distancing policies that have prompted those with the privilege to do so, to work from home while “essential and frontline workers” continue to keep the City in a reduced state of operation. The impacts of Covid-19 have been uneven to say the least, with communities of color and low income residents hit hardest in terms of confirmed cases but also a range of social and economic impacts. Cities like New York are now the “vanguard” on the pandemic front, making visible the complexities of urban density, as well as decades of disinvestment in health care, education and affordable housing among other issues.

    As both a response to our current moment and continuation of the EPA’s past work, we launched a new effort called the Multispecies Care Survey on Earth Day 2020. The project is a public engagement and data gathering initiative that aims to provoke new forms of environmental agency to de-center human supremacy and cultivate the co-generation of embodied, localized plant-human care practices. What do we mean by plant-human care practices? Methods for attuning oneself to a vegetal perspective - moving, breathing, listening, and working with spontaneous urban plants and other organisms as guides, collaborators, and mentors. Invitations for developing new forms of environmentalism and stewardship that decenter the human and honor the agency and possibility of multispecies communities. Spaces to reimagine and embody what care means in a time of global crisis.

    Originally conceived of as a public artwork launching at the Old Stone House that would travel to communities throughout NYC, the project was re-designed as a digital platform integrating a need for social distancing. Although hesitant to move our embodied and physical practice of being together with the city’s weedy and spontaneous urban plant communities, the EPA collective felt a need to reframe our practice to reflect our current context, and to collect data on how communities across the city and US are adapting, coping and developing new strategies for resilience and connection.


    The Survey website currently includes 6 “protocols” or prompts for noticing and engaging with multispecies communities through a window, balcony, backyard, or stoop. “Protocol 01: Temperature Check” for instance invites participants to consider which window you look out of more often since the crisis, to move towards this window and place an area of your body against the window pane to consider how it feels. What temperature does the glass offer? What temperature does the sunlight offer? How do you feel the climate’s temperature? After a brief engagement, the participant is then prompted to submit a photograph and brief audio recording to describe the experience, and what the view they encountered. In Protocol 04: Avian Transmissions, participants are invited to notice birds as they pass by one’s window by first observing and then placing a piece of paper to the window and create marks that follow the bird’s flight/position. A quick documentation creates an archived record of the experience. We use the term “survey” broadly, drawing from a history of public land surveys that have defined our artificial borders and notions of land use, and also survey practices that range from national undertakings like the US Census to regional biodiversity counts to collect large datasets.


    Each protocol is also linked to a specific call to action related to recent changes and rollbacks to environmental policy occurring at the US EPA, or other federal and state agencies. An email notification reminds the participant to learn more about each issue and to further act by signing a petition, calling their congressional leader, or getting involved in a local movement or direct action. In “Protocol 05: Essential Tree Labor”, which prompts participants to notice and care for a street tree, we call attention to the rollback of the Clean Power Plan. This Obama-era policy required utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The rule was replaced in 2019 with the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule which weakens emissions standards. Through the survey, we ask: “What kind of energy policy would street trees endorse?”

    Over the past 4 years, the U.S. EPA and other federal agencies have rolled back over 95 rules put in place to protect environmental health, supporting the interests of the coal, gas, and oil industries, along with Big Agriculture. The Multispecies Care Survey continues our work to bring awareness to these increasingly alarming rollbacks under the 2016-2020 presidential administration. Even in this time of global crisis, the US EPA continues its assault on environmental policy and health protections for communities across the country. In late March, the US EPA announced new “guidelines” for how companies monitor environmental violations, pollution and hazardous waste waiving a requirement for reporting, and will not issue fines for violations. Former EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, called it “an open license to pollute.” On March 27, 2020, the US EPA announced changes to how gasoline will be mixed in the face of potential shortages, which will likely result in more air pollution nationally. Just last month in April 2020, the US EPA extended public comments on the rollback of regulations for safe methods of coal ash disposal, the byproduct of dirty coal power plants. Power companies and private interests dump this waste into unlined ponds, which contain deadly poisons and radioactive substances, including carcinogens like arsenic, and neurotoxins such as lead and mercury, threatening drinking water nationwide. And on April 16, 2020, the US EPA weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic substances from power plants and other industries, which the New York Times and environmental groups point out would effectively loosen the rules on other toxic pollutants.

    This is all happening at a time when we are dealing with a collective global trauma unlike many have seen in their lifetimes. And alongside an ongoing effort to censor scientists and undermine what little confidence the US had left in scientific research for the public good. (See the so-called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” which public health advocates and environmentalists have dubbed the “Censored Science Rule”.)


    Since launching the project we’ve received dozens of responses from communities across the US, offering a glimpse into the multispecies worlds on view from one’s window. We are hoping to deepen engagement with the Survey through virtual Care Circles starting on May 9th, bringing together participants to share their experience of engaging with a particular protocol and to think through what new forms of embodied environmental action we can collectively envision. As a long-term and ongoing effort, we intend to maintain the Multispecies Care Survey  through the US Elections in early November. The data collected -- images, audio recordings, videos, embodied experiences -- will ultimately be used to draft a new piece of policy we’re calling “The Multispecies Act.” This Act aims to offer a set of embodied, actionable principles for centering spontaneous urban plant life as one means (among many) of contending with the failure of our environmental regulatory apparatus to deliver policy that protects and values life both human and non-human.

    As I write, this is day 56 of quarantine in my own apartment. Although I only have a few windows overlooking a patchwork of under-used lots and backyards, the emergence of Spring and the Survey’s protocols have brought new discoveries of life along the margins. And perhaps offer a set of novel interactions and embodied practices that help me cope through uncertain times. Now when I look out my window, I see things a bit differently and my powers of attunement sharpened. The simple practice of embodied observation offering some inspiration for how to persist in a time of global crisis and collective reimagining.


    Submitted by Christopher Kennedy, assistant director at the Urban Systems Lab (The New School) and lecturer in the Parsons School of Design. 

  • Friday, May 01, 2020 6:35 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace May 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Tuesday, April 07, 2020 2:44 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    An Interview with Sarah Kanouse
    By Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein 

    My practice is totally affected by being quarantined. I'm working on the dining room table on a failing laptop that I couldn’t get fixed before all of the computer repair places shut down as nonessential businesses. sk

    Sarah Kanouse was preparing to tour her original work My Electric Genealogy throughout Southern California when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. She helplessly watched as five years of work and preparation was put on hold. The work explores the social justice impacts of her family inheritance and intergenerational environmental responsibility.

    OH: I understand you’ve had to make some difficult decisions as a result of the pandemic, including leaving your residency locality in Munchen.
     
    SK: Yes, I had to leave Germany abruptly last week for fear of getting stuck there for another six months, well beyond my housing contract and income. I’ve been under house quarantine in Boston for 8 days, so it’s mostly been my community here supporting me. I’ve figured out how to make some masks and plan to help deliver meals when I get out of quarantine next week.

    OH: What response have you had to the ecological changes resulting from the global quarantines and how has this affected your practice?

    SK: We’re getting a crash course in degrowth--the radical contraction of our economies that is needed to mitigate climate change, but that would have to be carefully planned not to make far, far worse the violent inequities of contemporary capitalism. I hope that the mutual aid networks we’ve seen spring up in neighborhoods everywhere and the ways that once-radical ideas like UBI and free health care suddenly seem eminently sensible is a preview of a beautiful eco-social future. But, unfortunately, the right-wing governments are using the shock of the pandemic to further gut environmental regulations, trample privacy, and curtail dissent. Keystone XL just a fresh infusion of money and is full speed ahead, and it barely registered in the news.

    OH: You describe that the show “My Electric Genealogy” traces your relationship to the environmental and social justice impacts of (your) family inheritance.

    SK: Well, my grandfather worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power from the 1930s to the 1970s—a 40-year period in which the city’s population more than doubled and the Great Acceleration of energy consumption really took off. His entire career was devoted to ensuring that the city had enough power to support rapid population growth that was concentrated in hot, arid places that required ever-increasing amounts of energy to make comfortable according to white, middle class standards.”


    OH: What are some of these environmental and social justice impacts?

    SK: Several power plants were built in this era in the Four Corners area hundreds of miles away either on or encircling the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Indigenous people and the animals and plants they mutually depend on experienced all the adverse health and environmental impacts of these plants and their associated coal mines but did not benefit from any of the electricity.

    OH: Can you please share a specific story from the show?

    SK: In the performance, I contrast this story with my grandfather’s plan to build a nuclear power plant in Malibu. This privileged beachfront community was able to successfully mobilize to defeat the DWP’s planned Corral Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which my grandfather envisioned as the first in string of 30 nuclear power plants along the California coast. In addition to the environmental injustices involved in electrical generation in the twentieth century, the transmission infrastructure both reflects and contributes to economic and racial segregation in the built environment in the present.

    OH: In the description of the solo show “Electric Genealogy” you question what role you and your identity play in the destructive infrastructures that are involved in colonization and industrialization. Tell me more.

    SK: I’m strongly influenced by the environmental philosopher Kyle Powys Wyte (Potawatomi) who has called on white environmentalists to take responsibility for the ways that their (which is to say my) environmental consciousness has been shaped by white, settler colonial values and how “we” benefited intergenerationally from the very planet-imperiling practices that we now decry.

    OH: For those of us who may not get the chance to see your show, have you come to any personal conclusions on the topic?

    SK: The project is very personal. My grandfather was a complicated and difficult man—scornful of the burgeoning environmental movement; critical of the educated wife who gave up her own career to support his; politically conservative and deeply religious; harsh and even violent with his children. But he is also part of me. As an artist, I identify with his ambition and almost megalomaniacal focus on his life’s work. He loved photography and took hundreds of images of electrical transmission and generation systems. But what do we do about ancestors whose actions were the ones being rightfully resisted? I think of the project as a reparative project—critical of my grandfather’s legacy, of course, but also one that tries to build something out of the fragments, ruins, and traces that he and his generation left.


    OH: Is the mid-century men’s suit that you wear during the performance meant to emphasize this?

    SK: Wearing a suit that could have been my grandfather’s and adding and subtracting different costume elements over the course of the performance is one of the ways that I work through my connection to him and his time. It’s also a way of playing with and multiplying the possibilities for gender expression to resist the normative hetero-patriarchy which much of US infrastructure assumed: private, domestic, feminized spaces of consumption and rugged, masculine, high-tech spaces of production.

    I hope that the performance prompts the audience to consider their own co-subjectivity with modern infrastructures, since we are at a moment in which they must fundamentally be reworked and rethought. sk

    OH: You embody multiple generations in the show in order to ask what intergenerational environmental responsibility might look like. How might it look in your perspective?

    SK: Because the environmentally unjust present was not merely what Whyte calls the environmental fantasies of my ancestors but also my grandfather’s actual life’s work that is actively imperiling the future that my child will inhabit. The performance is in some ways a counterfactual dialogue with the political and cultural legacies of my grandfather's life's work—one that's needed if we are to work through the legacies of modernism, technocracy, and growth-at-all-costs that continue to animate green capitalist approaches to climate adaptation. 

    OH: Much of your early work was in film. When did you decide to work in live performance? How has the medium informed the process?

    SK: I started this project thinking I was making a film. Like I often do, I wrote a lot, shot a lot of material, and did some talks, which steadily became more and more performative. At one point, the script was 80 pages (a lot to memorize!), and I had done absolutely no acting since junior high. So, it slowed the creative process down immeasurably, but also in really exciting and fun ways. I audited a university acting class, joined a contact improv circle, consulted with performance artists as I reworked and finished the script, and worked with a choreographer friend to think about how my movements can convey the idea of being embodied by and related to something as big  and diffuse as the electrical grid. It took me awhile, but the project couldn’t go back to being a film—it’s just too much of hybrid creature—movement, sound, storytelling, projected moving images, sculptural set design, videoclips—to flatten on a screen.

    OH: What are your next steps?

    SK: Good question - and I wish I had an answer! I was just starting to set up dates for fall on the east coast, where I’m based, when the pandemic began heating up. Those were all in the early stages and are just impacted by the pandemic as the postponed spring shows, since the canceled/postponed events of the spring should be rescheduled if at all possible. It also feels incredibly icky to be worrying about the impact on this project when people are sick and dying or losing their jobs.

    So, I’m taking this moment to take stock not just about this project but how I live—the ways that my creative ambitions unwittingly replicate some of my grandfather’s worldview, for example—and knowing that there cannot be business as usual after this. 

    Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein is a Cambridge, MA based artist/writer and ecoartspace member.

  • Monday, April 06, 2020 9:03 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    In the last couple of weeks, our world has turned on a dime. In what seemed like an instant, we were pulled from our day-to-day active lives into isolation. Our city has shut down, as has much of the country. All non-essential businesses have closed, and groups of people are restricted. 

    In a quest to see something more than the inside of my house, I took a drive to see Michael Heizer’s iconic land art piece – Double Negative. Located about two hours from my home in Las Vegas, Nevada – I drove north to Overton, Nevada. From there, once I hit the dirt road, I was essentially alone with just an occasional vehicle visible in the distance.

    Parking on the rim of Mormon Mesa, I was struck by the vastness of the view shed. There were a full 100 square miles in view, from snow-capped mountains in the distance, the flat desert plain of the mesa and the meandering Virgin River in the valley below. Double Negative blends into the view as if it had always been there and can be easily missed if you don’t know what you are looking for.

    Heizer’s Double Negative is considered a “negative” sculpture. In 1969, using heavy equipment with the help of some dynamite, he removed almost a quarter of a million tons of rock on the Mesa edge. In his sculpture, he created two cuts, both 50 feet deep and 30 feet wide and several hundred feet long. Over the years, it has weathered and eroded, but the basic shape is still clearly visible and will be for years to come. Initially, Heizer did not want the piece restored in any way, instead, wanting the desert to reclaim the land over time. More recently, potential restoration is being discussed with support from the artist.

    In the late 1960s, art dealer Virginia Dwan provided funding for the project and donated the land and the piece to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The site is open for viewing 365 days of the year, and directions are accessible from Google Maps and a variety of online sources. 

    Michael Heizer felt that the most accurate view of Double Negative was in person, being physically present at the site. As I look over the edge of Double Negative, I am struck by how relatively unchanged this sculpture is after a half-century. In this uncertain time where our lives have changed significantly, what lesson does this land art piece share about the mysteries of time and our role in it?


    Paula Jacoby-Garrett is a freelance writer in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Wednesday, April 01, 2020 9:27 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace April 2020 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Monday, March 02, 2020 11:35 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    The ecoartspace March 2020 e-Newsletter is now LIVE HERE

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2020 4:07 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    Front: Charles Lim, SEA STATE 9: proclamation, 4K video, 2017, SEA STATE 9: proclamation: the sandpapers, bookshelf and books, 2017 and SEA STATE 9: proclamation: sand graph, photographs, 2017; and Back: James Jack, SEA BIRTH THREE, 4 K digital video, 2020, SPIRITS OF ŌURA, handmade walnut ink on paper, 53  X 174.4   2020, and HOME FOR PĪDAMA, aged driftwood, 29.5 “ x 13” x 8,”2020; Photo Credit Kelly Ciurej

    For Pacific Islanders, sea level rise is an existential threat. Island communities in the Asia Pacific are seeing their traditional ways of life threatened and many are experiencing coastal erosion, diminishing fresh water tables and dramatically stronger storms. For example, the Marshall Islands, which lie only six feet above sea level, experiences tidal flooding once every month. According to Marshall Island Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, the island of his childhood is “not only getting narrower – it is getting shorter…There are coffins and dead people being washed from graves – it’s that serious.”

    Inundation: Art and Climate Change in the Pacific currently on view at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, includes nine Pacific artists who address the impacts of rising of sea levels resulting from climate change, and the flood of emotions that the inundation unleashes. Curated by Jaimey Hamilton Faris, Associate Professor of Art History and Critical Theory at the University, the exhibition features works that convey the aesthetics of water and the vulnerability of Asia Pacific Island communities in Hawai’i, the Kingdom of Tonga, the Philippines, Okinawa, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Singapore both visually and through the spoken word. Artists included in the exhibition are: Hawai’i-based fiber and installation/performance artist, Mary Babcock; Kanaka Maoli sculptor and installation artist, Kaili Chun; Philippine artists and siblings, Martha and Jake Atienza, who work under the platform DAKOgamay; socially engaged Singapore artist, James Jack; Marshallese poet and performance artist, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner; artist and scholar of Native Hawaiian, African-American, Japanese, Caddo Indian and Punjabi descent, Joy Lehuanani Enomoto; Singapore performance artist, photographer and videographer, Charles Lim Yi Yong; and New Zealand-born artist of Samoan and Australian heritage, Angela Tiatia.

    In a recent conversation with Faris, she explained that her goal was to create an exhibition on the climate crisis that did not follow the usual formula for addressing well-known scientific and technological factors but was primarily seen through the lenses of climate justice and culture. She also wanted to “bring regional artists from large coastal island cities together with artists from small islands so that they could dialogue with each other about the shared challenges they face as a result of the climate crisis and potential alternative solutions for their homelands.”

    All of the artists in Inundation promote the inclusion of Indigenous voices and environmental knowledge in the discussion of the current climate crisis in the Pacific islands. Rejecting traditional governmental solutions to flooding based on colonial history, including coastal defense systems and land reclamation projects, they imagine alternate ways of remediating the environment.


    In her work, entitled Hū mai, Ala Mai, for example, Kaili Chun has created maps displaying the past and projected future shorelines along Waikiki, the Honolulu airport and the Marine Corps Base Hawai’i in O’ahu. Indicating where inundation will most likely occur and how it’s connected to the history of land appropriation and reclamation during colonization and development, the maps are overlaid with native varieties of fish that once swam in the estuary streams. Hū mai, Ala Mai imagines how a reconnected watershed can be restored into an abundant tidal ecosystem by letting the rising waters back into the places they had previously been. Her work also emphasizes the native Hawaiian values of “abundance, care and respect for the moving waters.”


    Left: Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Joy Lehuanani Enomoto, Sounding, installation with baskets, sounding line, drawing and sound recording, 2020 ; Mary Babcock, Lotic Sea, (Center), stitched wax paper and sea salt, 2020; and Right: Kaili Chun, Hū mai, Ala mai, Ink-jet digital collage on archival paper, 24”X 96”, 2020 Installation View. Photo Credit: Chris Rohrer

    In a complex installation entitled Sounding, by Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner and Joy Lehuanani Enomoto, the artists employ the patterning, intersections and strands of weaving, with the sounds of water to suggest how all Pacific island voices, including women and Indigenous ones and all strands of knowledge, including ancestral, should be part of the planned solutions to the climate crisis.

    A poem by Jetn̄il-Kijiner in the exhibition catalogue reminds us of what happens when “strands” are left out of the conversation:

    Look – I missed a strand.
    I missed a strand, and now could we be unraveling?
    Has the day come when we can talk? Maybe the day has come when we must talk. Because something is eating islands. There are islands dying. There are voices telling us to destroy thousand year old limbs like it’s nothing.
    Like it’s not another strand unraveling. Like it’s not another woman sinking to the bottom. Sinking boulders tied to feet, body caged in a woven tomb.
    We missed a strand and we named her monster.

    Accompanying the exhibition is a comprehensive catalogue and a full range of community events, including HIGHWATERLINE: HONOLULU, which invites community participants to visualize how rising tides will impact Honolulu by walking through the Kaka’ako area. Organized by Christina Gerhardt, Associate Professor at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, this activity is a recreation of artist Eve Mosher’s original 2007 HighWaterLine community art project that marked over 70 miles in the New York City boroughs at risk for major flooding from rising tides. The Guide to Creative Community Engagement was written by Eve Mosher and Heidi Quante, and provides a roadmap on how to realize a HighWaterLine locally.

    Inundation: Art and Climate Change in the Pacific is on view through February 28, 2020 at the University of Hawaii Manoa. The exhibition will travel to the Donkey Hill Art Center in Holualoa, on view March 28 – June 26, 2020.  

    Mention: ecoartspace founder and curator, Patricia Lea Watts, coined the phrase “replicable social practice” in 2012 and was the lead writer for the original HighWaterLine ACTION GUIDE, co-written with Eve Mosher, offering a range of strategies for making a high water demarcation. Funded by The Compton Foundation, San Francisco.

    Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist and writer. Since 2011, her paintings and installations have focused on water and climate change. She is the co-creator of a national, interactive public art project, The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water. As one of the core writers for the international blog, Artists and Climate Change, her series “Imagining Water” is published monthly.

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:23 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    Collected Watershed collaborators gather samples from one of forty different waterways

    We hear a lot about watersheds, but how many of us really know where we live within the dendritic system of our own local waterways? We may glance at highway signs telling us we’ve entered this or that watershed, but can we name the creeks, streams, and rivers that flow around us, and do we know how they connect to each other?

    Environmental artist Stacy Levy sets out to give one community a visceral, lyrical, and ecologically accurate sense of exactly where they live, water-wise, with her new project, Collected Watershed. The project, on view now through April 25th at the Towson University Center for the Arts Gallery in suburban Baltimore, employs more than 1,000 gallons of locally collected stream water to bring an entire network of Chesapeake waterways into view.

    In order to get all that water back to the gallery, Levy and her collaborators—including biology students and faculty, music students, and art students—ventured out into the Towson area landscape for a full week of water collecting. Using 5-gallon buckets, participants gathered samples from over forty waterways. “It’s a very involved process,” Levy notes. “Locating the tributaries can be difficult—we’re often working with waterways that have been sent underground, or that run behind strip malls and invisibly through our neighborhoods. We all become water detectives searching out these hard-to-see waterways.”


    Levy and an assistant lay out the watershed map on the gallery floor using blue tape and flexible plastic chain.

    Once back at the gallery, those ungainly 5-gallon buckets filled with gathered water became, in Levy’s words, “very important water, like fine wine that you label.” And while that precious water waited, the next step of “Collected Watershed” took shape: participants carefully placed jars along blue masking tape on the gallery floor, mapping the shape of the many waterways surrounding Towson, from Gunpowder Falls in the north to Jones Falls in the south. Then, over the course of many days, participants filled those jars with water from the corresponding streams and tributaries. Now viewers can literally walk through a giant living map of their watershed, comprised of 8,500 recycled glass jars branching across the floor of the gallery.


    A project participant carefully fills one of 8,500 recycled glass jars with gathered water.

    For many participants, this process of gathering water and watershed mapping was an eye-opening look at the state of their watershed, as well as the hydrological issues that intersect with issues of social justice. Erin Lehman, lecturer and director of the Holtzman MFA and Center for the Arts Galleries at Towson, points to issues like water justice, paying water bills, storm runoff, and crumbling infrastructure causing pollution in local creeks and tributaries. “This project felt really germane to our gallery and the Baltimore area in general,” said Lehman, “because water is so important here, and so much of it is underground.”


    Visitors to Collected Watershed can literally walk through a giant water map of the Towson area

    For Levy, the project’s ultimate goal is simple: To bring to the forefront waterways that are often hidden and forgotten. “Our waterways are like capillaries across the land, carrying water from sky to sea,” she says. “The same branching pattern as our blood vessels, the watershed carries the life blood of our planet. Nowadays we know our roads far better than our waterways. By not knowing where the water flows, we fail to protect it.”

    Collected Watershed at the Center for the Arts Gallery, January 31 - April 25, 2020. For more information go HERE

    Abby Minor is a poet and essayist living in the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania.

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