Notes from the Road: Teaneck Creek Conservancy

Wendy Liscow,  Program Officer

TCC_Pipe View

The conversation with Dodge Foundation grantees about our new guideline themes Creativity and Sustainability has stimulated a wonderful investigative journey, but the real satisfaction has come from experiencing the two concepts coming together in action. As my colleagues and I travel the state visiting current and potential grantees, we have the honor of witnessing passionate leaders making these connections. Recently, I met some board members of Teaneck Creek Conservancy, a group of environmentalists, artists, educators and community advocates who shared a vision to save 46 acres of land, but in a manner that utilized eco-art to strengthen the community’s connection to and experience of  the park.  This marriage of sustainability and creativity was brought to life during a January walk in the woods.

The hike into Teaneck Creek Park was not long, but the path was still covered with splotches of ice and snow and the air was brutally cold, so it felt like we would never reach our destination. Just as I was longing for my scarf  left back in the car, we turned the bend and five bright patches of color emerged from the bleak winter landscape to grab my attention. There sat five beautifully painted massive cement storm water pipes: spherical murals  in nature, telling the story of nature.

The five pipes

If you had ventured down the same path this past spring you would have been distraught to discover five graffiti-covered storm pipes that had been littering this otherwise pristine slice of nature since the 1960’s.five pipes covered in grafitti

Strolling later in the buggy heat of summer you would have found lead artist Eduardo Alexander Rabel, students from a variety of Teaneck schools, and community volunteers sketching, then painting, the visual stories of the vibrant local flora and fauna, and the impact of humankind on nature over time.

Teens working on pipes

Bogota High School students at Teaneck

Nealsfamily  stenciling fish

The story of mankind's influence on nature

The artistry took my breath away, but the depth of the community art process was what impressed me most, and it is all captured in this wonderful video that I urge you to take the time to watch.

This is not Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s first marriage of art and nature. In April 2009 members of the Puffin Photo club led by professional photographer Rachel Banai put together an unique outdoor art exhibition called “Windows on the Park” that utilized old sash windows to frame photographic works that told the story of the seven year transformation of this brownfields-to-greenfields track of land.

Windows

Many people would agree that nurturing creativity, supporting public art projects and protecting our environment are worthy endeavors, but they approach each task separately. But when they combine these laudable goals, something larger than the sum of the parts occurs, as Dodge Program Director Michelle Knapik noted in her recent post about The Voices From the Land project.

We are interested in knowing if you have participated in or seen creativity and sustainability in action, experienced the flow of these two forces coming together, and if so, what was it that made this connection meaningful?

photos courtesy of Eduardo Alexander Rabel

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