I am excited to announce the launch of Mapping Our Watershed, a community-engaged art and ecology project in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania. I began planning this project during my first term in the Confluence MFA program. We were asked to share our “big idea”–the project we’d do if time and money were no object. I proposed an ongoing initiative of participatory, public art projects that would offer Cheltenham residents ways to engage with local environmental issues and collectively envision solutions.
Nearly two years later, Mapping Our Watershed is underway. Projects like this involve a lot of behind the scenes effort; here are some of the things I’ve been doing to prepare:
Refining Methodology–I have drawn upon my 25 years of experience crafting participatory arts experiences, most recently with Take Us to the River, developed in collaboration with Mural Arts TaconyLAB and Riverfront North Partnership. For that project, I co-facilitated workshops designed to educate participants about the interconnected elements of riverfront ecosystems and engage them in observational artmaking. I have collaborated with teachers, social workers, youth workers, and therapists, but this was the first time working with environmental educators. I am building upon that experience for Mapping Our Watershed.
Mapping Our Watershed includes six free, family-friendly workshops
starting May 6th. Sign-up links are HERE!
Partnership Building–When I moved to Elkins Park in 2016, I left behind two decades of relationships in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I had spent my entire adult life. In the last six years, I have invested time and effort in building a new network, with a focus on the community of 37,000 people where I live. I am pleased that this work has resulted in partnerships with the Cheltenham Center for the Arts and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF). I have worked with both organizations before, and am excited to build on those relationships. I am also a member of the Cheltenham Township Environmental Advisory Council, where I am focusing on educating residents about the importance of supporting local biodiversity.
Learning the Science–Over the last two years, I have been educating myself about the environmental issues impacting the Greater Philadelphia area. I am gaining an understanding of the disproportionate impacts of issues like urban heat, pollution, and flooding faced by low income communities and communities of color, and the intertwined relationship of racial justice and environmental justice. This learning led me to watershed ecology; I am now a volunteer streamkeeper with TTF and have collaborated with hydropedologists at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire and connected with soil scientists at the Urban Soils Institute and at the University of Pennsylvania.