Art

Art and the Environment

by Andrea Bennett

Children are especially adept at conveying their interests – like SCUBA diving – through their artwork.

Children are especially adept at conveying their interests – like SCUBA diving – through their artwork.

People often express how they feel about our environment through many art forms such as photography, sculpture, and painting. In the past, landscape artists in the mid-Atlantic region focused on painting historical events such as the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River in 1776. As our cultures changed, so did the subjects of our paintings and eventually painters began portraying the environment as it is without an important historical event in the center.

Different groups of painters used techniques that reflected their geographical areas such as the Hudson River School landscape painters and the Impressionists in Europe. Here in the mid-Atlantic there is a new group – the Potomac River School. Recently these painters had a group show and most of the paintings were of the Potomac River and its tributaries.

The Washington Society of Landscape Painters, an art organization founded in 1913, sponsored the show titled, “Images of Washington, DC, 2014.” While the group only admitted male painters until 1993, this recent show, featuring the works of many women artists, demonstrates that women are actively capturing the beauty of the Potomac River today.

Children are especially adept at capturing what they see in the environment and many organizations are aware of the interest children have in re-creating what they see, and hold contests to encourage their artistic talents. This year the National Park Service sponsored a youth art contest and April art exhibition to showcase the beauty of Appalachia’s parks and wildlife and to help foster environmental protection in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia.

The City of Virginia Beach and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary are also examples of mid-Atlantic organizations that sponsor contests to help artists – children and adults – show how they enjoy their local watershed and the natural environment around them.

Recently, more people have begun to create art that is part of or protects the environment. One local high school created a decorative sculpture out of bottle caps because they couldn’t find a place that could recycle them.

The Maryland Department of the Environment also sponsors an annual “Rethink Recycling” Sculpture Contest. One recent winner created a sculpture named “Meeko the Dolphin,” made out of discarded styrofoam, soda cans and water bottles!

Whether you’re living, working or vacationing here, the mid-Atlantic region, from the Shenandoah River in Virginia to the New River in West Virginia, is full of great places to visit and capture with a photo or a drawing!

 

About the Author: Andrea Bennett is a biologist with EPA. Andrea enjoys birding, kayaking and playing the mandolin and she is a member of her local watershed protection team.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Getting Creative with Communications

By Christina Catanese

 During my time at EPA, I’ve learned so much about water protection, from permits to enforcement, from regulations to partnerships, from large national actions to things anyone can do to protect their waters.  Managing the Healthy Waters Blog, along with other digital communications, ­­I’ve also thought a lot about how best to communicate the work EPA does in water protection outside our agency’s boundaries.  I’ve found that, consistently, our most effective communications have been those that make visible the real impacts of our work, those that connect environmental actions to the things that are most important to all of us, and those that engage people on a deep emotional level, not necessarily a scientific one.  And often, it also takes a touch of creativity.

A view of Philadelphia from Camden

A view of Philadelphia from Camden

In a digital age, there are more ways than ever for us to reach out and connect with the many audiences interested in what EPA does, and more ways to have a presence in communities.  Social media and blogs are some of the newest tools in our communication toolboxes – we’re still honing our craft to figure out the best way to use these tools to build the most engagement with our work.

One of the best tools I know of to help make these meaningful connections is art.  How many times have you felt your spirit soar while watching a powerful performance, or your mind fill with awe gazing upon a work of art (or, for that matter, a work of nature)?   For many of us, just reading about science and large, sometimes overwhelming environmental problems doesn’t always inspire the same excitement.  But what if the complementary powers of art and science could be combined?  Can environmental science and art be integrated to educate and inspire people to change their perspective and behavior on environmental issues?  I think the answer is yes.  I think art has amazing potential to connect people with the natural world and their environments in a way that typical presentations of scientific information cannot.  From storm drain art to artfully managed stormwater and beyond, the possibilities are endless to use art as an avenue into environmental issues, and an inspiration to get involved.

With the challenges we face in water protection and other environmental issues, it’s more important than ever to communicate about these issues and engage everyone in the solutions.  What other creative ways can you think of to communicate about environmental challenges and the possibilities to address them?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, managing the Healthy Waters Blog and other digital communications in the Mid Atlantic Region’s Water Protection Division.  She is parting ways from the agency this week to explore more deeply the connections of environmental science, art, and communication as the Director of Environmental Art at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Explore Environmental Careers with EPA’s Park(ing) Day Parklet!

By Christina Catanese

One of the most rewarding parts about working in the environmental field is getting out of the office and having the chance to talk to people about what I do.  And getting to do it in a unique, creative way that inspires others to make a difference in our communities?  Even better.

EPA employees hard at work at our Park(ing) Day parklet - under construction!

EPA employees hard at work at our Park(ing) Day parklet – under construction!

This year, EPA Region 3 employees will present a Park(ing) Day site in Philadelphia, an event that embodies this unique blend of outreach and creativity in urban public spaces.

Park(ing) Day is a national event held on the third Friday in September.  This annual event converts metered parking spaces into temporary parklets throughout the city.  Park(ing) Day re-imagines the possibilities of 170 square feet of public space, celebrates parks and public spaces nationwide, and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in urban areas.

I look forward to Park(ing) Day every year, because I can’t wait to see what people come up with in their mini-park displays.  I love seeing parks that use old or conventional materials in a new way.  Some advocate for a cause or particular issue, while others simply provide a place to sit, catch your breath, and watch the hustle and bustle of the city go by for a bit.  A number of my colleagues and I were so inspired by what we saw, we just had to join in for this year’s event.

EPA’s parklet will focus on highlighting the diversity of careers and people who pursue them in the environmental field, especially careers at EPA.  Our site uses a stylized form of a branching river to demonstrate the different paths an environmental career can take, as well as actions that people in any career can take to help protect the environment.

But I can’t give away too much… you’ll have to come see our parklet for yourself!  Find us at the southwest corner of 34th and Walnut Streets in West Philadelphia on Friday, September 20th between the hours of 8am and 4pm.  And check out this interactive map to find other parklets throughout the city!

Have you experienced Park(ing) Day in Philly, or somewhere else?  What other ways can we re-imagine our urban spaces?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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In Philly, Plain Rain Barrels are SO Last Season

By Nancy Grundahl

If you were Michelangelo, what would your rain barrel look like? It certainly wouldn’t be plain. No, it would convey beauty, reflect creativity, stand out from the crowd, cause walkersby to catch their breath in amazement.

One of the designs (“Fish Flow”) that you can vote for in the Philadelphia Water Department's Rain Barrel Art Contest

One of the designs (“Fish Flow”) that you can vote for in the Philadelphia Water Department's Rain Barrel Art Contest

To raise awareness of the benefits of rain barrels, the City of Philadelphia is holding a rain barrel art contest, but instead of Michelangelo, the artists are local students. Students between the ages of 11 and 21 from the Laura W. Waring School and YESPHilly worked with artists from the Mural Arts Program and educators from Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and the Philadelphia Water Department to create beautiful original artwork for decorating rain barrels. How will it work? The designs will be printed on shrink wrap that will then be wrapped around rain barrels distributed by the Water Department.

The contest has been narrowed down to 8 finalists and they’d like you to vote for your fav. The contest ends on February 13, so hurry!

Rain barrels are good ideas no matter where you live.  They help capture rain water that can be reused around the home. And they help prevent that water from rushing from your downspouts and into storm sewers, picking up pollution that winds up in your favorite streams and rivers.

Feel creative?  Tell us your ideas for beautifying rain barrels at your home!

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Environmental ASCII Art

By: Nancy Grundahl

Have you discovered ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) art? It uses the characters of a typical computer to create graphics — like this fish art.

><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“> ><((“>

Computer users created ASCII art in the 1970’s when most computers couldn’t handle images and Photoshop wasn’t born yet.

Here at EPA, some folks incorporate environmentally-themed ASCII art into their email signatures. Fish are quite popular. It’s a cool effect.

With the advent of Twitter, there is a resurgence of ASCII art, some even renaming one-line ASCII art as “Twitter art” or “Twart.” ASCII art can be used to add extra pizzazz to tweets.

Do you create ASCII art for signature boxes or for Twitter? If you do, please respond to this blog with your environmentally-themed creations. Make sure you follow the rules so that everyone will see what you see. Only use the ASCII character set of 128 characters. Only use a font that has uniform character width like Courier or Monaco. And, don’t use italics.
Also, please follow copyright restrictions. While you can copy other people’s ASCII art to use in your personal signature, you cannot use it for business purposes without getting the artist’s permission.

Looking for inspiration? See what other folks have done . Then, think in bigger terms – ASCII art that’s several lines high. And, if you really want to get into it – ASCIImation – videos done totally with ASCII art. No, I am not kidding.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy also writes for the “Healthy Waters for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region” blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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My Secret Love Affair

By Amy Miller

I’ve never written about my love affair before. Most people who cross my path – my boss, for instance, or my child’s math teacher – have no idea how I love numbers. After all, I am paid to write words, not add and subtract numbers.

Sometimes I talk about probability while hiking a mountainside. “What do you think are the odds we will bump into someone from our town compared to the odds we will bump into someone from New York?” I might ask fellow hikers. Once a year I try, for some strange reason, to figure out again the formula for rolling a particular number on a die a particular number of times.

So when I saw the artwork of Jordan LaChance I was enthralled. LaChance takes serious environmental information and turns it into serious art.

In “Caps Seurat” he uses 400,000 bottle caps to create a reproduction of a Seurat painting. Why? To show the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the US every minute. That makes 24 million bottles an hour and … oh skip it.

In another one of his pieces, called “Car Keys” he shows 260,000 keys, equal to the number of gallons of gasoline burned in motor vehicles every minute in the US. With an average gas mileage of 20 miles to the gallon that means 1.56 million gallons an hour for 30 million miles driven each hour. (Check my math, will ya?)

There are a host of books for people fascinated by the use and misuse of numbers in the media, courtrooms and government agencies, even. They can help us interpret statistics like the ones above in a more thoughtful way. My A-list includes: “The Drunkard’s Walk,” “The Numbers Game”, “The Invisible Gorilla” and The Panic Virus.

In another favorite, the “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” I learned there is no (known) formula for prime numbers and it takes ages for even a computer to find the next one. Researching this, I found new tidbits: the largest known prime number is nearly 13 million digits long. And Mersenne Primes are all 2 to some power minus 1. As in 2 to the power of 43,112,609, minus 1. And that, BTW, is the largest prime known.

When I told this to my lifelong best friend, she got bleary. Who thinks about prime numbers, she said, incredulous. Why is this relevant? I turned her on to my A List but I haven’t heard back yet.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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