New urban watershed education walking tour to launch in Center City

Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” tour will stretch from the museum to the Schuylkill River
Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition.
Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A museum located on the Ben Franklin Parkway has launched a new multi-faceted walking art exhibition on the importance of watersheds in urban landscapes.

The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” initiative features a 1.5-mile self-guided urban walking tour from the museum at Logan Circle to the Schuylkill River. It takes most people about an hour to complete.

Along the way, you see and hear art installations at 30 locations on the streets, sidewalks, and even on the outside walls of homes.

“This tour is intended to get people connected to their watershed. Not everyone knows what a watershed is and [thinks] about it in terms of their own lives,” said Roland Wall, the senior director for environmental initiatives of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

“A watershed describes an area of land or space that when water lands on it, it goes somewhere. It goes into either a puddle, [a] stream, or into a river.”

Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition.
Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

Wall explained that over time, watersheds interact and grow.

“So it’s important when we think about water quality, and the ecological strength of a stream or river, to understand what is happening upstream in its watershed,” he said.

“That is really the connection we want people to have, as they begin having these conversations about water and water quality … mindful of the intricate human and natural connections that link the greater water system.”

The experience took creators like Whit MacLaughlin a year to develop.

Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition.
Part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

“The goal is kind of an embodied intimate relationship, with the idea of watershed and how water moves through and around our city,” MacLaughlin said.

“We made friends up and down the street, probably 25 of 30 residents on the street. We had to make sure that they were cool with the idea of the exhibition, and we wanted them to understand that this was discreet.”

When you get to the river, you head to a small wooden arbor. While there, you can sit on a vibrating bench and feel and hear the sounds of the river in front of you.

Artist Liz Campbell literally fished the sounds out of the river. She used a fishing pole and a high-powered underwater microphone to collect them, discovering mud bubbles as she recorded the sounds.

Artist Liz Campbell along the Schuylkill River at part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition.
Artist Liz Campbell along the Schuylkill River at part of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University’s “Watershed Moment” walking art exhibition. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

”I am a fan of them. They were a great surprise,” said Campbell. “When you listen to the tapes, you hear them coming up from the bottom.“

The sounds are also featured in a sound and visual installation back at the museum. River sounds like diving ducks and currents are incorporated with objects like wood, stone and pottery.

Watershed Moment” runs from August 3 through October 30. The tour is included in the museum’s admission price, or you can take the tour by itself for $7.

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