The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country. Founded in 1965 by sisters Eleanor Houston Smith and Margaret Houston Meigs from former family land in the Roxborough area of Philadelphia, the Schuylkill Center provides an island of green and accessible ecology programs to the city and the surrounding areas.
As part of its facilities, the Schuylkill Center includes 340 acres and over three miles of hiking trails, a visitor’s center with interactive exhibits, an art gallery, a native plant garden, a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, a green roof and a solar array that reduces the center’s energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The services the center provides to the community, such as afterschool camps and partnerships with artists, make it an invaluable resource to the greater Philadelphia area.
Currently on display at the Schuylkill Center is an exhibit by career development fellows and alumni from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA). The show is called “Out of Bounds” and consists of a (mostly) outdoors art exhibit with work by Susan Benarcik, Ana B. Hernandez, Brooke Hine, Darla Jackson, Mami Kato, Scott Pellnat and Caleb Nussear.
Of the artworks, only one is located indoors in the art gallery. Darla Jackson’s “Surprise Party” depicts a number of wild animals wearing birthday hats in a room with a cake. The deer is lying on the ground, and all the other animals have stopped to stare. It is supposed to convey the idea of a life-changing experience – events that all of us must confront, with both the good and the bad – and the positive changes that emerge from them. In many ways, it also celebrates the center’s animal rehabilitation clinic and its mission to aid injured wildlife.
Caleb Nussear has an installation by the pond that mimics both the water and the nearby solar array. Entitled “Mirrory,” the faceted bits of mirror are geometric tessellations that appear somewhere between natural patterns and something synthetic. The reflective surface could easily be imagined as the surface of a rippling lake, and its divided segments highly resemble the face of an energy-gathering solar panel.
With a clear pun intended, Susan Benarcik calls her artwork “Why Our Hangers.” The five droplet-shaped forms look like raindrops and are constructed from – you guessed it – wire hangers. Benarcik’s installation is part of her “Collected Materials Series” which utilizes found or reused byproducts of our current lifestyle in new ways, so as to challenge our ideas and help us to contemplate our own consumption.
There are a number of other works to see in the CFEVA show, which will be on display through September 2. Besides the artwork, there is also much more to see and do at the Schuylkill Center before the summer is over. Visit the Schuylkill Center website for the lowdown on all of their programs.
The Schuylkill Center is located at 8480 Hagy's Mill Rd., Philadelphia; 215-482-7300; www.schuylkillcenter.org. Hours of operation for the main building are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.