“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”—Henry David Thoreau
A lively group gathered on October 4, 2003 to welcome Embodying Thoreau: dwelling, sitting, watching its new home at the Pennypack Environmental Center (8600A Verree Road in Northeast Philadelphia). Created by artist Ed Levine, the project consists of a series of wooden structures “between sculpture and architecture” that explore various aspects of humanity’s relationship to nature.
Inspired by the writings of famed nineteenth-century author Henry David Thoreau, who is often described as the “father” of the environmental movement in the United States, the project features three elements—Thoreau’s Hut, Benches, and Bird Blind—nestled along the trails of the Environmental Center.
To develop this project, Levine worked closely with representatives of the Pennypack Environmental Center Advisory Council, a community group that supports the Center. To evoke the spirit and values that inspired Embodying Thoreau, council members joined Levine and others involved in the project in reading passages from Thoreau’s classic Walden. Visitors then hiked the 1/4-mile-long trail that connects the project, viewing the artworks and enjoying the Pennypack’s spectacular natural setting.
Embodying Thoreau: dwelling, sitting, watching was commissioned through the Art Association’s ongoing program New•Land•Marks: public art, community, and the meaning of place. Artists and communities worked together to plan and create new works of public art. The program was conceived as a “public art laboratory” to develop best practices for the field of public art and to support the work of artists in community contexts.
It was selected for a 2002 Place Planning Award by the Environmental Design Research Association and Public Art Network’s 2004 Year in Review, a guide to the best U.S. public art projects.
Directions by Car:
Via I-95: Take I-95 North to Cottman Avenue. Go West on Cottman to Roosevelt Boulevard Turn right onto Roosevelt Boulevard and continue until Rhawn Street. Turn left on Rhawn Street and continue for nine lights. Turn right on Verree Road. The Center will be on the left side of Verree Road.
Via Roosevelt Boulevard/Route 1: Take the Roosevelt Boulevard to Rhawn Street (a couple minutes past Cottman Avenue.) Turn left on Rhawn Street and continue for nine lights. Turn right on Verree Road. The Center will be on the left side of Verree Road.