Art makes space for rain at the Schuylkill Center

This Friday, May 31, environmental artist Stacy Levy will be presenting “Rain Garden,” an interactive art piece advocating for a new relationship between people and rain.

The piece, recently installed at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, is built around a newly planted garden on the ground level. Blue spiraling rain gutters carry rainwater from the adjacent building onto the surface of the garden. A wire catwalk creates a platform above the garden, allowing for people to gather and observe the garden without disturbing the plant life or getting their feet wet. An additional spiral rain gutter connects from a pump operated cistern to a series of 5 galvanized trough filled with different surfaces: concrete, asphalt, gravel, lawn, and meadow. Kids can pump the water and direct it onto the various surfaces to observe how the materials of our modern environment interact with rain water.

While most people and planners are continually thinking of ways to provide humans with a refuge from the rain, Levy is advocating for a way to provide rain with refuge from the interference of traditional human design. “Rain is a gift, an amazing force,” says Levy. “You have to be responsible for rain. It needs time to soak in.” The piece hopes to advocate for that resource and the space that it needs while providing an interactive illustration of what an altered relationship to rain could look like.

“Rain Garden” opens in conjunction with Beyond the Surface: Environmental Art in Action, a full day conference at the Schuylkill Center. The conference features environmental artists in presentations and discussions on how art can create exciting educational experiences and how it intersects with other disciplines.

Levy worked with a team of engineers, ecologists and educators to create the piece. This ties in with the themes of the conference, which looks at how art can be joined to science in the pursuit of education, advocacy and change. Collaboration on this scale is also significant for the art world. “Working on teams is the next place art is going,” says the Levy, who shares an affinity for teamwork with five other artists who make up the Environmental Art Advisory Team at the Schuylkill Center.

The installation opens this Friday with a free unveiling at 6pm on the evening of the Conference, but will stay at the Schuylkill Center for years to come. As the roots of the plants grow, it will create a living fabric that can provide an even better structure for containing rain water. See it at the Schuylkill Center, at 8480 Hay’s Mill Road.

SARAH E. ADAMS is the editorial intern at Grid and can be found working for Bennett Compost at a farmers market near you.