How Do You See Nature Winners and Runners-Up

We were thrilled to see over 150 entries to the photo contest, and we thank all of those who shared their photographs with us.   Three winners were chosen by a panel of Schuylkill Center staff.  


We’re also happy to honor six runners-up.  Christina Catanese and Anna Lehr Mueser comment on the runner-up photographs below.


From Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art:
Lea Gooneratne-Riedi

Lea Gooneratne-Riedi

In the winter woods, we can often find evidence of animals in the landscape even when we can’t see them, and I love that this photo shows an example of that.  It implies a story – a bird, or many birds, going about their day in the snow.  The movement patterns are traceable to a certain degree, but are mixed and not linear, leaving us to wonder about the details of the story.  The framing of the picture doesn’t draw your eye to one focal point, but rather creates an intricate texture that it’s easy to get lost in viewing.  Seeing nature often means finding the unexpected in a landscape when you take a closer look, as in this case, the patterns unintentionally generated by feathered friends.
Judith Krasinski

Judith Krasinski

This scene induces a feeling of deep quiet, and the soft quality of the background gives the impression of freshly fallen snow.  The solitary figure, small in the landscape, makes me imagine myself in her position – being alone in the snowy woods, which is one of my favorite parts of winter.  Compositionally, the photo is also impressive.  The uniform colors and textures of the background offset the woman in the landscape; the brightness of the red coat and even the woman’s skin stand out against the white, branching woods.
Ann Kent

Ann Kent

The stark contrast of color in this photo – the deep blue and the bright white – and the sharp, clean lines seem to reference the harsher side of winter.  Winter isn’t always kind, especially to animals (and, indeed, people) that don’t have places to warm up in or readily available food.  There is also a feeling of unsettling displacement in this landscape.  It makes you wonder: what is the scale here, and where was this taken?  Still, I like the uncertainty about it, and its feeling of total emptiness – not even a footprint in sight – evokes beauty even in its bleakness.
From Anna Lehr Mueser, Public Relations Manager:
Eric Smith

Eric Smith

The soft glow of this photograph draws us into the moment, emphasizing both the beauty of the winter and the deep cold of this season.  The photographer seems to have surprised the swan in this moment, capturing it as it withdraws one foot into warm feathers.  The bright white of the swan and the glowing orange of its beak are in stark contrast to the dull grey of ice.  Everything about this photograph speaks of the cold and of endurance, showing us what winter means.


Mitch Berger

Mitch Berger

The contrast of warm light and the soft colors of sunset pair beautifully in this photo with the cool blues of the snow and the dark lines of trees and stream.  Mitch Berger’s photo reminds me of the joy of discovering something unexpected and beautiful.  The sunlight lighting on the trees transforms the scene from beautiful to stunning, each detail vivid and alive, despite quite stillness of the image.

Gretel DeRuiter

Gretel DeRuiter

This remarkable photograph is at first hard to understand – the ice and frost are striking, the colors incredible, capturing the chilling cold of the season, yet one is at first thrown off by the image.  Where is this?  What is this?  When it becomes apparent that we are looking at a windshield, this image seems to resolve itself and we see the true brilliance of it.  This is not only how the photographer sees, pictures, photographs nature, this, ice on the car, is the nature all of us have lived with every day this winter.  I loved this photo because it perfectly located us within our environment and brought nature, even cold frosty nature, into the every day.


How does your community see nature?

These are just some of the many great photos submitted to the How Do You See Nature contest so far.

There is still time to share yours!  Send us a photo by February 27th.  Details are here.

Getting Creative with Communications

Cross-posted from Healthy Waters for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, February 6, 2014.

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

During my time at EPA, I’ve learned so much about water protection, from permits to enforcement, from regulations to partnerships, from large national actions to things anyone can do to protect their waters.  Managing the Healthy Waters Blog, along with other digital communications, ­­I’ve also thought a lot about how best to communicate the work EPA does in water protection outside our agency’s boundaries.  I’ve found that, consistently, our most effective communications have been those that make visible the real impacts of our work, those that connect environmental actions to the things that are most important to all of us, and those that engage people on a deep emotional level, not necessarily a scientific one.  And often, it also takes a touch of creativity.


A view of Philadelphia from Camden

In a digital age, there are more ways than ever for us to reach out and connect with the many audiences interested in what EPA does, and more ways to have a presence in communities.  Social media and blogs are some of the newest tools in our communication toolboxes – we’re still honing our craft to figure out the best way to use these tools to build the most engagement with our work.

One of the best tools I know of to help make these meaningful connections is art.  How many times have you felt your spirit soar while watching a powerful performance, or your mind fill with awe gazing upon a work of art (or, for that matter, a work of nature)?   For many of us, just reading about science and large, sometimes overwhelming environmental problems doesn’t always inspire the same excitement.  But what if the complementary powers of art and science could be combined?  Can environmental science and art be integrated to educate and inspire people to change their perspective and behavior on environmental issues?  I think the answer is yes.  I think art has amazing potential to connect people with the natural world and their environments in a way that typical presentations of scientific information cannot.  From storm drain art to artfully managed stormwater and beyond, the possibilities are endless to use art as an avenue into environmental issues, and an inspiration to get involved.

With the challenges we face in water protection and other environmental issues, it’s more important than ever to communicate about these issues and engage everyone in the solutions.  What other creative ways can you think of to communicate about environmental challenges and the possibilities to address them?

Christina Catanese worked at EPA from 2010 – 2014, managing the Healthy Waters Blog and other digital communications in the Mid Atlantic Region’s Water Protection Division.  She parted ways from the agency last week to explore more deeply the connections of environmental science, art, and communication as the Director of Environmental Art at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

How do you see nature? Schuylkill Center photo contest 2014

birch in snowIn celebration of the opening of Frost in the Environmental Art Gallery, the Schuylkill Center invites community members to send photos to our Winter 2014 Photo Contest.

Submit your winter photos by February 27!

More about Frost:

It is safe to say, this has been a winter of surprises, with temperatures plummeting well below what we usually expect for this region and snowfall far above.  This cold is actually at the heart of our upcoming exhibition, Frost.  We’re thrilled to welcome two Philadelphia artists to take on winter with a show that runs from February 15 – April 18.  Amie Potsic and Nancy Agati delve into the meaning of winter through a mixture of photography, sculpture, and drawing.  An opening reception on March 1 at 4 pm offers a chance for the public to see the artwork and meet the artists.

In winter, patterns emerge from the harsh relief of cold temperatures and heavy snow which illuminate the relationship between us and the changing environment we live in.  Potsic explains, “I find winter to be particularly seductive as it simultaneously highlights the stark beauty of our environment’s dormant cycle while hinting at the potential growth of spring.”  Agati’s work, exploring the ephemeral through use of natural materials, emphasizes the cyclical patterns of the natural world.  Agati writes eloquently about the details that are highlighted by winter: “Working in the studio while the snow falls – again. Linear patterns are further defined as I notice the stark contrast of branches against a pallid backdrop.”

Now, it’s your turn to be a part of it: Take your camera outdoors and capture this remarkable winter!

???????????????????????????????See nature through the eyes of your community

Come out to the Opening Reception for Frost, on March 1 at 4 pm, to see photos submitted to the contest.  The three photo contest winners will each receive a special handmade Schuylkill Center mug.


The rules are simple:

      • The photo must have been taken this winter
      • The photo must be taken in the Philadelphia area
      • The photo must be outdoors or feature the outdoors
      • The photo must be your own creation and its publication may not violate the rights of any third party
      • Photos must be submitted by 5pm on February 27.

Please note:

  • No explicit or offensive photos.  The Schuylkill Center reserves the right to determine whether a photo is explicit or offensive.
  • By submitting a photo, you grant the Schuylkill Center non-exclusive rights to reproduce your image.  You maintain copyright and you will be credited.
  • Winners will be chosen by a panel of Schuylkill Center staff.

How to Submit a Photo:

We look forward to finding out how you see nature – submit a photo now!

Making Room for Rain – Stacy Levy

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is working to investigate the intersection of nature and the city. The role of rain in the landscape is being actively explored in programs and planning around its buildings. As a nature center, SCEE is at the forefront of solving site issues through art based intervention. On May 31, 2013 a conference on New Environmental Art will be held at SCEE to look at ways that art and science can collaborate to solve ecological problems in urban nature, and enlighten citizens to find new solutions in their own lives.

Rain is usually given a long narrow space to inhabit: gutters, downspouts, underground pipes. People can walk practically anywhere in a building and on the surrounding landscape. What if this paradigm got turned on its head? Give people a more narrow path of movement around a site while rain gets plenty of space to spread out and linger? How would our built environments change? And how would it change our relationship to rain?As an eco-artist, I want art to be an advocate of rain. Art is good at giving meaning to the leftover or abandoned aspects of the world—and rain is one of those abandoned elements. Though a yardstick worth of rain falls every yearin this region, we hardly register rain’s presence. In urban settings, architecture and engineering have generally kept rain invisible to us. The relationship between rain and the built environment needs to be changed, and art is well positioned to alter that relationship.At SCEE, I am working with ecologists, engineers and educators to create an artwork that gives the rain room to spread out while keeping people in a defined space. But people do not lose out in this design— both rain and visitors get a dynamic space to co-exist.Rain Gardens create spaces that can get wet and stay wet while the water infiltrates into the soil.

Instead of becoming a muddy soup, the rain garden holds the rain within the permeable soil and the roots of a diverse community of native plants . These plants also make good habitat for other species like insects and food for birds and other small mammals.

This new artwork deals with two types of visitors to the site: rain and humans. A grated metal catwalk prevents the plants from being trampled while also keeping people’s feet dry. ‘Staying dry’ and ‘soaking in’ are two incongruent activities—one of the reasons that rain has no place to go in the built world is the hierarchy of the dry human foot!

We want to demonstrate ways to change rain’s journey in the built environment. We also want to give visitors a chance to test out the very materials of the city: the surfaces we spend our lives walking on like asphalt, concrete and grass. How do these materials work with or work against rain?

How this art works: Some of the rainwater will be diverted and stored in an above ground cistern. Then during dry days, our visitors can pump this contained water into 5 different troughs. Each trough contains a different familiar surface materials from the landscape: concrete, asphalt, gravel lawn and meadow. People can direct the rainwater onto these different surfaces to see how the water responds— by soaking in or running off.

At SCEE rainwater will be given both the time and the place to act the way rain should act. And people will be given a place to interact with the falling rain while staying out of its way as it soaks into the soil. The idea of rain needing a refuge is a new idea to most of us. We hope people learn about rain, and the surfaces it meets in our world. This piece gives people a new angle on rain and its relationship to our built environment.

The piece will be under construction over the early spring. Please come by and see it!

Want to know more about Rain Gardens?

The Philadelphia Water Department

The Rain Garden Network

The Groundwater Foundation

The Department of Environmental Conservation

Rain Garden Alliance

Want to see more of Stacy Levy’s work?

‘Facts and Fables: Stories of the Natural World’ Art Exhibit Explores Our Experiences with Nature

Opening Reception: June 25th 4pm-7pm

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught. ” – Baba Dioum   

Stories normalize the strange and explain the confounding. Our relationship with the environment is in a state of constant flux, and as an environmental education center, we are always updating how and what we teach about the natural world.  As our ways of seeing the world develop, the stories we believe in evolve and expand. Our relationship to our stories is tenuous, however, since they can sometimes oversimplify the reality of nature’s complexities. Historically, we relied on scientific facts until they become obsolete, transforming themselves into fables. What was once believed without question now sounds laughable (the Earth as flat, the medicinal use of leeches, to name a few ). Regardless, we will always need stories because they help make sense of the world we inhabit.

This exhibition, “Facts and Fables: Stories of the Natural World,” asks important questions about the human experience of the environment: How do stories affect our understanding of nature? What is true nature and what is fabricated, and how can we tell the difference? Is our experience of nature limited by our ability to sense the world around us? 

“Mother Nature” by Chad Curtis

The seven artists in “Facts and Fables” use diverse methods to address such questions: memorials, guidebooks, faux landscapes, fairy tale crime scenes, live video feeds, visual perception tracking, distortion of scale, predictions and invitations. Some artists tell stories, while others examine the ways stories are created, or retell old stories to unearth new ideas. These artists combine out-dated methods with innovative technology, offering the viewer a range of experience and ways to interact with the natural world.

For example,  Chad Curtis incorporates green technology into his installation, “Mother Nature” (pictured), through the use of a solar-powered video camera that generates a 24/7 live stream, available online here:

Jenny Laden, Director of The Environmental Art Department at The Schuylkill Center

“Facts and Fables: Stories of the Natural World” (June 25- Oct. 29) is an environmentally-focused, large-scale outdoor installation exhibit featuring seven artists: Jeremy Beaudry, Brian Collier, Chad Curtis, Blane de St. Croix, David Dempewolf, Susan Hagen, and Jeanne Jaffe.
Please join us for the opening reception and an exclusive tour of the installations with the curator and artists on Saturday, June 25th 4pm-7pm.
215-482-7300 |  | 8480 Hagy’s Mill Rd. Phila, PA 19128