A public garden & cultural center

Lillian Ball


Remediate/Re-vision: Public Artists Engaging the Environment
Glyndor Gallery | August 1 – November 28, 2010

The WATERWASH projects aim to mitigate storm-water runoff into fragile aquatic environments through a comprehensive approach to remediation and public outreach education. These goals are executed on several levels, including replacing ordinary parking lot surfaces with permeable pavement and strategically placing “bioswale”—a constructed earthen channel planted with native vegetation—to absorb additional runoff which contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and hydrocarbons. These pollutants effect fecal coliform bacteria in our waterways. The Mattatuck inlet WATERWASH project was unveiled in November 2009 at a permanent public boat ramp park in Mattatuck, NY, and a second incarnation is currently proposed for a lot on the Bronx River owned by ABC Carpet & Home. Runoff pollution has a perilous effect on nearby wildlife.

Lillian Ball has spearheaded a unique effort to combat this problem. She implemented interpretive signage as part of the project, with an innovative filmstrip format to explain the environmental issues at stake and to facilitate a community understanding of them while combating pollution. Ball sees the project as a prototype for similar projects around the world, and she functions as a project manager/outreach coordinator as well as an artist, securing funding and organizing fabrication.


Lillian Ball on WATERWASH

Although I had been working with water issues, when I became involved with wetland preservation and restoration in Eastern Long Island, NY, seven years ago, art just seemed superfluous. It gradually dawned on me that the only artwork possible for me to make must concentrate on environmental issues. It seemed I might never make art again, but images kept coming and with them the eventual realization that it is essential to be engaged with both artistic and activist practices simultaneously.

The "School of Hard Knocks" often gives artists a particular tenacity and way of working outside the box that can make these projects uniquely possible. My first serious artwork in a public context was Maze, 1979, at Artpark in Buffalo, NY. Subsequently, I was involved with collaborative activist practices (such as Guerrilla Girls and Women's Action Coalition) that were community based in the New York art world. In Southold, with the environmental challenges faced by small coastal towns, it seemed more positive to conceptualize alternatives to traditional development than to protest its failures. The Bronx River infrastructure project, Waterwash ABC, translates that experience back into an urban art context.

Waterwash is the title for a series of works with a particular approach to creative stormwater remediation and public outreach education. Mattituck Inlet is a successful prototype, but many aspects can be expanded. Data collection of water quality and shoreline stabilization improvements would be useful measurements. Monitoring programs are part of Waterwash ABC and are integral to future projects. Positive reception means the opportunity to do projects with my choice of collaborators, non-profit groups and scientists, and becoming more effective in cooperation with government agencies. Success means innovative visual solutions that include stakeholders, negotiating through bureaucracy and raising enthusiasm levels. Success means viewers can be inspired to be better stewards of the environment—difficult to gauge, but a learning process for us all. 

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.