Urban Equilibrium—Planning for New Environmental Art

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education



Jackie Brookner, Veden Taika (The Magic of Water), 2007, earth and plantings. Image courtesy of the artist.

At the time of this grant, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education was embarking on a comprehensive re-envisioning of its art program to align it more fully with its overall goals, one of which is the ongoing conservation and restoration of its 365 acres of woods, trails, streams, ponds, and meadows. Jenny Laden, the Schuylkill Center's director of environmental art, worked with a national advisory team to develop a strategy that would replace the organization's former art-in-the-landscape model with one in which visiting artists make "ecoventions"—remedial or preservative artworks that physically transform local ecology, such as cleaning toxins from the soil or reintroducing a native species. One of the challenges they faced was determining how to actively improve ecology while maintaining artistic quality and legibility. Planning concluded with the drafting of a statement of artistic criteria and audience engagement strategies, a pilot project, and a day-long symposium. This was the Schuylkill Center's first exhibition grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.