The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is an expansive park and environmental center with forests, meadows, and trails along the steep hillside above the Schuylkill River, but it wasn’t always this way. For Centuries, the land that the Center sits on was part of Lenapehoking, the land belonging to the Lenape tribe of indigenous people that stretched across large areas of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
In the 17th century, Europeans arrived and colonized the region, turning much of the area around the Center into farmland, and it stayed that way up to the 1960s. Most of the Center’s land was carefully transformed through well planned tree plantings, conservation of existing habitats, and thoughtful landscape design that allows personal interaction with the natural environment, resulting in the unique urban forest and greenspace that it is today.
Forest Makings is on view now through Dec 30 in the Center’s gallery. This multi-artist and multi-genre art exhibit looks at how humans interact with nature and shape the forest through conservation and how our actions impact the sustainability and the survival of the forest as a whole.
Getting to the Center is easy with SEPTA bus routes 9, 62, and 27 and proximity to the Schuylkill River Trail. Show your commitment to the environment and plan a sustainable trip to see Forest Makings at the Schuylkill Center with the GoPhillyGo Android app and mobile website now through December 30.
GoPhillyGo recently spoke to Curator Tina Plokarz who shared insight into the thinking behind this exhibit. According to Plokarz, this exhibit explores forest conservation practices, and specifically the practices of selective logging, controlled burning, and reforestation and afforestation, the practice of creating forests in places where they did not previously exist. Plokarz also told us that she believes there is another vital conservation practice that can be learned from this exhibit.
“There is (another) social practice that we use at the Schuylkill Center which is care. That means bringing people in contact with nature, and teaching them to understand and appreciate the forest,” said Plokarz. “I want to make people aware of how we are shaping (the forest) as humans, and every act we are doing is impacting the forest, and this kind of thinking is what I hope comes out of this exhibition.”
Plokarz carefully curated this exhibit with artists who already work with a focus on the environment like artist Jean Shin, whose work highlights the devastating practice of commercially logging hemlock trees, Pennsylvania’s state tree, for the leather tanning industry in the early 19th century.
“I knew of the work of Jean Shin. She always works in the environmental field, thinking through the things we do to the environment,” said Plokarz. “She had this great project that I came across last year, and I was really interested in how we can think about the forest differently.”
Other artists include Ana Vizcarra Rankin whose work titled Forest Futures Growth visualizes the amount of trees humans would need to plant to offset the planet’s carbon footprint. Artists Aaron Terry and Amir Campbell teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to record stories from people about trees that are important to them to show that trees, for better and sometimes worse, are deeply intertwined with the communities in which they exist. Be a part of their exhibit Seeding Newtopia when you visit by recording your own story about a tree in your life.
“You can come to us, record your tree story of your connection to a tree, and all of these recordings will go back to the artist and the scientist and they will look at them with the lens of thinking through how we are connected to trees in our urban context, and how we want to be connected to trees”.
Few art exhibits have a post-visit aspect where you can have a related in-person experience after you leave the gallery. At the Schuylkill Center, you can do exactly that by walking outside and experiencing the impact of careful conservation practices in person.
“When people go out into the urban forest at the Schuylkill Center they will have a different (attitude toward) the forest and trees because they are not seeing them as only something that serves them, but also something that has a connection to them emotionally and socially,” said Plokarz. “I hope people feel encouraged to come out to the Center, walk our forest, and look at it with different eyes.”
This FREE exhibit is open now through December 30. Plan a trip to see Forest Makings at the Schuylkill Center with GoPhillyGo Today!