Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 24th Celebration : 'Water Is Life' and 'Rainy Day,' two public art installations at Maplewood Mall

By Sage Passi

The leaf blades of the Water is Life sculpture, created by Cecilia Schiller and
Willis Bowman silhouetted against the sky at Maplewood Mall.
On a beautiful spring evening on May 24 in 1983, I gave birth to my daughter, Crystal. I watched her grow up to be an artist and somehow it feels fitting to witness the unveiling of two new works of art on that same day, thirty one years later. This time around there’s lots to be celebrated again. Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District invites the public to the dedication ceremonies for two new public art installations, Water is Life and Rainy Day, at the Maplewood Mall on Saturday, May 24 from 11 AM to 1:00 PM. These works are real labors of love.

The mural Rainy Day, created by David Aichinger, Jessica Turtle, and
Christy Schwartz is enjoyed by St. Peter School visitors.

The stunning public art pieces at Maplewood Mall have been birthed over the past year and a half. The designers/crafters of these two projects have dedicated innumerable hours, tapped into their creativity and energy, masterminded their way around numerous challenges and teamed up to bring their vision and message to light. Their artworks highlight themes about the interactions between water, nature and the built environment.

The Water is Life sculpture waits to be unveiled.  The wood trunk of the tree
(wrapped in a tarp) harbors musical chimes underneath the bark that play when
the turbine leaves rotate.
The festivities will begin at the mall’s west entrance (near Kohl’s) at 11:00 AM with the unveiling of the interactive sculpture Water is Life, followed by a procession through the mall to the east entrance at 11:30 for a ceremony to honor the completion of the mural, Rainy Day. Performances by students from Farnsworth Aerospace, Harding High Earth Club and St. Peter’s School with original poetry will be the centerpieces of the celebration. A reception with an opportunity to mingle with the artists follows.

St. Peter's fourth graders rehearse for the art dedication ceremony on
May 24th at Maplewood Mall.
Artist Cecilia Schiller, together with Willis Bowman, created Water is Life, an interactive, water driven, tree-shaped sculpture to encourage the community to share in the responsibility of protecting water and keeping it clean. The Tree of Life sculpture is activated by rainwater from the roof that drains into a turbine, rotates the branches and plays a melody on chimes inside the trunk. Viewers can also make the sculpture move by turning a wheel on a crank box adjacent to it.

Cecilia and Bowman set up the sculpture at
Maplewood Mall's west entrance.

Rainy Day, the large tile mural provides a dramatic backdrop for the Watershed
District's stormwater management features.

Schiller’s idea for the sculpture was developed over the course of a year by interacting with watershed district staff, volunteers and community members and exploring sites and waterways within the watershed. Its Tree of Life motif carries the message about the interconnections between water and life. Ultimately she chose the location at Maplewood Mall for its unique challenge to use rainwater in creative ways and the opportunity it offered to reach a large and diverse audience while promoting ideas of innovative water stewardship efforts and their benefits in a fun, inviting way.

Tessera Mosaics artists, David Aichinger, Jessica Turtle and Christy Schwartz created the large colorful, playful ceramic and stone tile mural, Rainy Day to draw attention to the interplay between nature and the built environment. Created as a backdrop for the Watershed District’s dramatically decorated cistern and the rain garden surrounding it at the mall’s east entrance, the mural entices visitors to find images embedded in the design that include a belted kingfisher, honeybees, walleye, sunfish, ferns, a mushroom, a lizard, 3 ants carrying a pretzel, a turtle with a crayfish, a western bluebird as well as many other creatures and plants that share the local environment with humans.

A spider, one of the many smaller images
incorporated in the mural.
The mural challenges the audience to contemplate their own actions in the environment. At the same time it inspires an appreciation of the beauty and capacity of long- rooted plants in the mall’s rain gardens to help water soak into the ground and keep downstream lakes and the Mississippi River safe from potentially harmful pollutants that would otherwise run off from the mall’s parking lots, rooftops and roads. Their work helped inspire the poetry that St. Peter’s students will be performing at the event.

St Peter's students write in their journals about the mural's messages.
Schiller received an initial grant to develop a preliminary design in 2012 and additional funding from Forecast Public Art St. Paul in 2013 to build and install Water Is Life at Maplewood Mall. Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District gave input and matching funds. The Jerome Foundation provided additional funds. The Rainy Day mural was funded by Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District.

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District is partnering with Maplewood Mall, Harding High School Earth Club, St. Peter School and Farnsworth Aerospace School for this event. 

We hope to see you there!!  It will be a great time for folks of all ages.

For more information contact Sage Passi, Watershed Education Specialist at sage.passi[at] or at 612-598-9163.

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