Threads of Mill Creek – Environmental Art



This installation was part of an educational program for CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership) at Mill Creek Farm in Philadelphia. Like many cities, Philadelphia sits on rivers which were capped to become storm sewers. Part of the educational piece for this project was for students to take a bus tour and see the beginning of Mill Creek a few miles outside the city, and follow it until it disappears under the city and then later reappears along the Schuylkill River. This particular neighborhood suffered the collapse of homes built on land over the storm sewers and Mill Creek Farm was formed to help reduce stormwater run-off. The students created a giant representation of Mill Creek weaving and knotting strips of recycled jeans through a fence. This not only celebrates the origins of the neighborhood, but also reminds people about the importance of minimizing run-off.

Future Possibilities

Although denim is a solid sustainable choice for this project, it would be more helpful to use the art as a barometer for conditions. For instance, using cloth treated with hydrochromatic ink would allow the piece to change color in the rain. A more sophisticated version could actually use nanotech fabric that is programmed to monitor the underground river still running under Philadelphia. Color changes in the fabric would correspond to water depth levels. Of course my dream would be to have the ability to measure for specific types of radiation due to fracking and nuclear power in water. This art installation could serve as a community first alert system for poor water quality. Imagine fabric that turns bright green to indicate radioactive water