Save the date, friends: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015. The Wissahickon is coming to the Schuylkill. Just like real life!
Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the Fairmount Water Works‘ mission has long served to protect Philadelphia’s water supply and watersheds—and to foster an informed stewardship of the lands surrounding it. So with great honor and pride, I am happy to announce the exhibition of One Man’s Trash, my yearlong project which, in so many words, served to protect the Wissahickon watershed and foster a better stewardship of the park surrounding it. To merge these ideas, we’re hosting a two month exhibition, April 22–June 26, with an opening party on Earth Day.
This project has been a labor of love. In late 2013, I relocated to Mt Airy for a lot of reasons, none greater than the access to the Wissahickon Valley Park. Though its dramatic scenery could easily be mistaken for some Appalachian hinterland, the Wissahickon’s 1,800 acres are indeed right here in the fifth largest city in the country. And with that comes the inherent big city problem that has always bothered me most about Philadelphia: litter.
So. For all of 2014, I took a trash grabber with me on weekly hikes to pick up all of the litter I could carry. Each hike lasted roughly 2-3 hours and went roughly 4-5 miles, and each one traveled a different section of the park than the previous week’s. This enabled me to learn every corner of the park and its 50 miles of trails. It also allowed me to study how the park interacts with its neighbors—neighborhoods, private residences, institutions. For example, while Mt Airy is spoiled with an abundance of access (there are three trailheads within six blocks of my home), East Falls is all but completely cut off from the park, despite sharing close to two miles of border with it.
As the project has had many components, so too will the exhibition. All of the litter I’ve removed from the park has been sorted, catalogued, and arranged neatly for display. Aluminum cans, glass bottles, hard plastic bottles, soft plastic bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic bags, SO MUCH PLASTIC, styrofoam, cardboard boxes, paper receipts, discarded clothes, miscellaneous items… it’ll all be here.
The data tallied from all of those items will be here too. Visitors to this site over the past year have probably noticed the project’s 52 weekly reports. All of these reports have been collected in one place and laboriously added up. From this data, the extremely talented Jason Killinger and Mark Adams will design infographics that speak to the city’s consumption—of disposable products and of water—and how its waste is handled.
And, since Devil’s Pool is the Wissahickon at its very best and its very worst—it’s at once a spectacular specimen of Wissahickon schist geology punctuated by a stone aqueduct dating to the City Beautiful 1890s and a party spot whose litter seems to get worse by the year—an entire wall of the show will focus its attention here. Germantown native and resident Sarah Kaufman has photographed Devil’s Pool in use over the past few years; prints from this series will highlight this wall.
With help from Friends of the Wissahickon, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and the Philadelphia Water Department, we’re also planning a series of events that will include talks at the Water Works, tours of municipal facilities, park cleanups, and guided hikes. All told, we’re going to cover some ground, and we’re gonna have a good time doing it. A full menu will be published when it’s ready, but for now, circle Earth Day on your calendar, and come out for the opening night of One Man’s Trash… and Friends!