Artist Nancy Agati created 18-foot boards with line drawings tracing the pattern of the river. Credit: Provided
While studying for her Masters at UArts, Nancy Agati would regularly ride her bike to school along the Schuykill River. “In the summertime it was amazing to observe all the different variations of the way the water looked at different times of day or in different kinds of weather,” she recalls.
That inspiration came back to Agati as she was thinking about a project for this year’s Art in the Open, her third time participating in the festival that celebrates making art in the open air along the banks of the Schuylkill. For her piece this year, “Churn, Ripple, Flow,” she created three 18-foot boards with line drawings tracing the pattern of the river at different points. During the festival this weekend, she’ll ask visitors to help her carve these drawings into an enormous woodblock.
“I wanted to have a piece that people could participate in,” Agati says. “There are so many people who go along the river while they’re out for a jog or walking their dog or taking their kids for a stroll who might just stop by and try, and that’s fun.”
Those people are exactly the target audience that Deenah Loeb, executive director of Philadelphia's City Parks Association, hopes to reach. The CPA is the lead organization in the festival, which is now planned as a biennial event, in partnership with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. This year’s fourth incarnation will feature 30 artists from across the country creating work over the course of three days from the Fairmount Water Works south to the Locust Street Green.
Loeb hopes that observing the river through a number of artists’ eyes will help to raise awareness of environmental issues through their creations. “Sometimes we take the views of the Schuylkill for granted when we drive by it or commute by on the train or ride by on our bikes every day,” Loeb says. “Perhaps artists who are inspired by this fantastic waterway in an urban environment will help us to see it differently.”