Art teams up with science: #4theDelaware

Delaware flooding DC
Avalon, N.J. during a nor'easter in 2008. PHOTO BY JON COX

Scolding, brow beating and bullying may not (what a surprise) be the best way to change hearts, minds and beliefs about climate change.

Artists and scientists in the Delaware River watershed are coming together to explore new ways to respect disagreements yet still work toward understanding.

An event is in Delaware tonight, Feb. 25, (I know it's late notice) and another is in Stroudsburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Feb 27. The other is an on-going commitment in Philadelphia.

Delaware, tonight and onward

At the recent Science Summit hosted by the partnership for the Delaware Estuary in Cape May, N.J., a team from the University of Delaware unveiled a years-long project called "Big Storms and Rising Water." Note how they avoid the hot-button phrase "climate change." 

The idea comes from a cross-section of faculty (science and arts) from the University of Delaware whose ambition is to go to several spots throughout the state that have had flooding and find ways to talk about those experiences. These conversations will lead to a curated exhibit of voices and art works, including the visual arts as well as writing. It could also include whatever people want to offer. The hoped-for result will be a traveling exhibit that the organizers take back to the communities that have contributed to the project.

Anyone who has been affected by flooding has a story to tell, and the quantitative data that's useful for future planning (science) doesn't touch the heart (art). The aim here is to respect personal experience. 

Keep in mind, flooding is often a problem for low-income communities, whose voices can be the hardest to hear. I'm going to keep my eye on this!! Also, to have a look at the sorts of flooding that Delaware is experiencing, here's a related site that's a collection of photos from various photogs.

Here's the resiliance project website (and if you can't make it tonight, keep it in mind for the future).

Delaware Resilience Project, University of Delaware, Newark, DE., Townsend Hall Room 132, 6:45 - 9:00 PM

rfugue2 DC
A view of the exhibit River Fugues/Moving the Waters at East Stroudsburg University.

Stroudsburg, Wednesday Feb. 27 and an on-going exhibit 

Sharing our experiences of the Delaware River may be the way to create more champions for the river.

That's the power behind the exhibit/presentation "Our Water," taking place at East Stroudsburg University: "A presentation and panel discussion on our environmental responsibility for our water sources and the power of ART to raise awareness."

Artist Margaret Cogswell's River Fugues/Moving the Water  -- an ongoing exhibit at the Fine and Performing Arts Center -- will serve as inspiration for the conversation among local environmentalists about the themes in Cogswell's work and their relationship to the Delaware River.

The evening's program is presented by ESU's Department of Art + Design and borrows its title -- River Fugues: a Catalyst for Action partly from the title of Cogwell's exhibit. In music, a fugue is the combination of two or more melodic lines, and as part of the evening, Dr. Brian Hodge will be presenting a selection of the fugues and preludes composed by J.S.Bach.

All this art in service to the idea that art has the power not just to be appreciated for its own sake but for its ability to explain  -- and share -- complex ideas.

It's at 7 p.m. in the Celia Cohen Recital Hall at ESU's Fine and Performing Arts Center. Admission is free. For more information,


Stacy Levy, Rain Yard, 2013 DC
Rain Yard by Stacy Levy is an innovative artwork that serves both a practical function—mitigating stormwater runoff from our building—and an interpretive function—highlighting the critical role that soil and plants play in the water cycle. Photo courtesy of the Schuylkill Center.

Philadelphia, on going

Philly's a big city with lots of room for science/art experimentation -- the one I'm singling out here is the Schuykill Center for Environmental Education.

Here's what they say about their use of art to investigate nature:

We incite curiosity and spark awareness of the natural environment, through presentations of outdoor and indoor art. Working collaboratively, we support artistic investigations of our environments and create spaces and opportunities for artists and audiences to creatively engage in ecological issues.

Founded in 2000 as an opportunity for artists and audiences to explore and interpret the natural world and current ecological issues, our environmental art program has brought hundreds of artists here. We offer new pathways to connect people and nature, and serve as a living laboratory for artists and audiences.

Might be a good place to target for a day in the future:

I'm sure there's lots more examples out there. Let me know if there's one you're particularly partial to!!

About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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