Seeing Is Believing: Art installation makes invisible pollution visible

Air pollution is an abstraction. We know it’s there and it affects our health, but if we could see it, what could change? That’s one of the questions asked by Particle Falls, an art installation on the outside of the Wilma Theater. Particle Falls takes real-time air pollution data using a nephelometer, which measures particulates in the air using light, and translates that data into a different sort of light. When air pollution is low, smooth blue light falls towards Broad Street. When a bus goes by or a smoker exhales, the light changes to fiery crackles and dots.

Digital media artist Andrea Polli created Particle Falls to make the invisible visible and to encourage awareness about air pollution. “As an artist, I felt the best way to promote this dialogue was to take… something negative and present it as a thing of beauty,” Polli explains. 

Particle Falls is part of Sensing Change, a larger exhibit at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) Museum. Through different media, Sensing Change shows short- and long-term environmental changes and invites us to explore and respond to them. 

Particle Falls is on display outside the Wilma Theater at 265 S. Broad St. after 7 p.m. from September 26 to December 1. Sensing Change is on view through May 2, 2014 at the CHF Museum, 315 Chestnut St. in Old City. Learn more at

Story by Katy Diana.