A New Interactive Public Art Project On The Delaware River Waterfront Connects Visitors To Their Surroundings

Words and photos by Street Dept Contributor Eric Dale.

A series of large, mixed media art installations has popped up along the Delaware River Waterfront! The project is called Pockets Of Light, and it’s a collaboration between textile artist Julie “Juicebox” Woodard and experience designer Eric The Puzzler. (A note of disclosure: Eric The Puzzler is a side project of Streets Dept Lead Contributor Eric Dale). Julie created the lively artworks, and Eric created the site-specific activities that accompany them.

Julie hand-and machine-stitched the 13 artworks in the series entirely from post-consumer waste, most of it plastic. Nine of the pieces are what Julie calls “wayfinding waterscapes.” Labels on those pieces provide viewers with a map that guides them to the main course: the four larger installations, which are located on Race Street Pier, Cherry Street Pier, Washington Avenue Pier, and Pier 68. The pier artworks depict native flowering plants found along the Delaware River, and Julie constructed them as creative interpretations of several artistic mediums, including collage, sculpture, and stained glass.

For each of the native plant artworks, Eric The Puzzler created a set of location-specific activities to choose from. You can: solve a fun puzzle by applying your powers of observation; learn about the featured plant and its ecological value; try to identify the objects and materials used in the artwork; take a moment to ponder your surroundings with some guided questions; and/or take and post a photo in order to win a prize. There’s also a bonus puzzle at each location which might earn you another prize!

As the about page for the project explains, “the creators aim to augment the nurturing effects of the waterfront and help locals and visitors alike forge a deeper connection with their surroundings.” The page also explain that this project, which was sponsored by Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, is called Pockets Of Light because the creators feel that the public piers along the Delaware River provide much-needed light for both people and plants.

“We wanted to accomplish several things with this project,” Eric said while zip tying a placard to a fence on Pier 68. “We wanted to highlight the importance and beauty of native plants, help people connect with a body of water that was historically difficult to access due to industrial usage, and also comment on and advocate against single-use plastics and disposables.” (Julie and Eric plan to dismantle the installations if and when they start to decay, so that their work does not directly contribute to plastic waste entering the river.)

“This installation is really for everyone,” said Julie, after attaching a row of black-eyed Susans to a bench on Washington Avenue Pier. “if you’re interested in public art, or native plants, creative reuse, just being outside, solving puzzles, Philadelphia, winning fun prizes… I hope you get out there as soon as you can. Run, walk, bike, scoot, carpool… get over to the waterfront and soak up a little light!”

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