Materiality of Place

Mapping Our Watershed

Rebecca Schultz at Council Rock

Mapping Our Watershed, co-created by Rebecca Schultz and community members. Cyanotypes tinted with witch hazel, moringa, wild strawberry, mulberry, and echinacea; soil chromatography; and plant-based acrylic paint with soil, lake, and eggshell pigments on hemp; suminagashi prints, photo collage, soil watercolors, plant prints, and pencil sketches of soil on canvas, 2023

Mapping Our Watershed is a participatory art and community science project that aimed to connect residents with the complex ecology of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania. Mapping is about creating a visual representation of a place; it is also a process of documenting the relationships and experiences of that place. Local residents mapped their experience of the watershed by learning about its interdependent elements and translating their impressions of those elements into art.

Many Cheltenham Township residents are impacted by flooding, which is increasing in a hotter and wetter climate. A healthy watershed is able to absorb more stormwater runoff; it also supports greater biodiversity, which is critically important for ecological resilience. Mapping Our Watershed offers an opportunity to learn about what makes a watershed healthy and what we can all do to make our community more sustainable.

For this project, I collaborated with the Tookany/Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF), Cheltenham Center for the Arts, and Friends of High School Park, who co-produced seven free, family-friendly workshop from May-August 2023. Three workshops were outdoor experiences at locations throughout the Township incorporating community science and observational art activities; they were co-led by scientists and educators from TTF, the Department of Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Patrick Center for Environmental Research at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Each were followed by a workshop at Cheltenham Center for the Arts where participants made art using natural materials. Art produced in the workshops were incorporated into a large mixed media work representing the watershed, alongside a series of mixed media experiential maps I created based on field visits to sites in the watershed. 

To learn more about the project, check out my blog.

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