How to Get to the River
Academy of Natural Science at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Produced by New Paradise Laboratories
and Pete Angevine, Laia, Whit MacLaughlin
July 28, 2022
How to Get to the River (HTGTTR) is a research-based art adventure that invites participants to develop an embodied, creative, and loving understanding of and attunement to the Schuylkill River watershed.
There is a type of knowledge—particularly knowledge about the natural world—that becomes available to us primarily and most effectively through our senses, our bodies, and our intuition. Art has often been a primary caretaker of this type of knowledge. Such embodied knowledge, coupled with the intellectual and creative knowledge systems available through scientific inquiry, inspires in us a sense of stewardship and connection to the natural world. We, scientists and artists, must conspire together to encourage those relationships, those connections.
HTGTTR was born out of just such a conspiratorial art-science practice. In order for the broader public to feel invited and connected to the watershed science undertaken at the Patrick Center for Environmental Science (part of the broader Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University), our creative team determined it was necessary that the public fundamentally appreciate, experience, and come to love the way water moves through our urban ecology.
The experience consists of several interlocking artistic installations—with sidewalk art, kinetic music, creative and unusual signage, plant-based 2D art, sculpture, maps, lenticular drawings, moments of playful interactivity, and more—that together lead participants, physically and conceptually, to the river. We understand the work not only as ‘live art’, but as ‘alive art’, art that comes to life through its interaction with all who journey through and witness it, and art that changes and evolves over time because of its location in a natural, outdoor setting.
As a species, our future in this world is tied to our appreciation of and appropriate interaction with watersheds and their many challenging and beautiful vicissitudes. HTGTTR is intended to stimulate such appreciation, and also to inspire active conversations between loved ones, colleagues, and strangers; between living beings and inanimate ones; and between the natural and human-made worlds. Ultimately, the experience teaches us how to relate to our watersheds and local water systems, with care and with tender attention.