Arts Along the Waterfront

#2 look  around by Bruce McNeil

“Look Around”, Bruce McNeil

In the third issue of the Urban Waterways project newsletter, we explore the impact of the Arts on the spirit of neighborhoods along urban waterways. The Arts have long reflected artists’ visions of the communities in which they play a role. Inversely, these interpretations are informed by the world around them, and the natural world, in its various forms, can often be an important source of inspiration.  What are the practical applications of the relationships between Art, artists, and the communities in which they live?

In this issue, our collaborators in Anacostia, Baltimore, and Louisville discuss how Art can be used as a force of social, economic, and educational change.  Local artists, Barbara Johnson, Bruce McNeil, and Terence Nicholson describe the role of the Anacostia River in their art and the role of Art in the communities surrounding the Anacostia. Kristen Faber, a Baltimore artist, explains efforts of The Charm City Circus, part of the social circus movement, to empower, educate, and heal neighborhoods in Baltimore.  In Louisville, The Waterfront Development Corporation discusses how art has played a role in establishing the Louisville waterfront as a place accessible to all and is an integral part of a revitalized commercial and residential area which had greatly improved quality of life for many residents, while Theo Edmonds and Josh Miller of IDEAS 40203 show how the arts can be used as a force by which communities can build a workforce from within.

As a whole, the contributors to this issue demonstrate the power of Art to reflect not only an artist’s interpretation of the world but also its power to shape what the world can be.

Our third issue   UW Newsletter 3

The Urban Waterways Symposium – Gathering to “Tell Story”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS

2427 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE

Washington, DC 20020

One of the central goals of the Urban Waterways project has been to provide means for the collaborators in our network to share their concerns, practices, and accomplishments with communities facing similar challenges.  On March 28, 2015, the museum will provide a space for our collaborators as they gather for the Urban Waterways Symposium.

Panelists from Baltimore, Chicago, D.C., Hawaii, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Turkey Creek will gather to share their experiences, best practices, and next steps regarding such issues as Education & Practice, Environmentalism & Recreation, Grassroots Leadership, Collaboration, Waterfront Development, and Gentrification & New Urbanism.

The symposium will help to further the project’s long-standing goals of creating a cross-disciplinary dialogue among scholars, government  officials, activists, and scientists, eliciting first-hand  information from residents of local communities, and engaging all who are interested with on-going activities that will enable their participation in reclamation, restoration, and appropriate redevelopment of their urban waterways  and their communities.

Register at

Use Invite Code ACMUWS2015

9:00-10:00 AM



10:00-11:15 AM



11:30 AM-12:45 PM



1:00-2:15 PM


2:30 -3:45 PM



Providing a Space

Image- From left to right. Crystal Sandoval, Nnamdi Anomnachi, Kofi Henderson, Mike Brown, and Tony Thomas explore the Potomac River on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Susquehanna. Susana Raab ACM

Image- From left to right. Crystal Sandoval, Nnamdi Anomnachi, Kofi Henderson, Mike Brown, and Tony Thomas explore the Potomac River on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Susquehanna. Susana Raab ACM

A reoccurring question faced by the collaborators on the Urban Waterways Project has been “What are the end products?”  “What will be the outcomes of your research?”   While the project has produced an exhibition, citizen scientist program, a survey on local attitudes towards the Anacostia, a newsletter, a collection of oral histories and documentation, a surprisingly overlooked and misunderstood component of the project has been to provide a space.

A space for what?  The Anacostia Museum, through our projects, exhibitions, and programs, provides a space in which personal experiences can be shared, frustrations and fears voiced, solutions explored, and victories celebrated.

The Urban Waterways’ exploration of the relationships of communities to local waterways is not confined to one city.  Efforts to restore the Anacostia River, shape East of the River Development, reconnect residents to their river and surroundings, while taking place in DC, have much in common with efforts in Baltimore, Honolulu, L.A., London, Pittsburgh, and Turkey Creek. The seven cities in the Urban Waterways Network share similar histories and face similar challenges.  Through the exchange of their experiences, the stakeholders in the communities along the seven rivers which make up the Urban Waterways network are reminded they are not alone in their efforts and answers may be found by looking at communities in similar situations.

Raul Macias, founder of The Anahuak Youth Soccer Association in Rio de Los Angeles State Park June 2013

Raul Macias, founder of The Anahuak Youth Soccer Association in Rio de Los Angeles State Park June 2013 Katrina Lashley

The work of Raul Macias and the Anahuak Youth Soccer League highlights the importance of ensuring all communities provide safe, active, green spaces which serve as a focus of healthy, connected communities. Led by Irma Munoz, Mujeres de La Tierra serves as a reminder of the changes that can be wrought when residents are reminded of the power they can wield by giving voice to their demands for the communities they want for themselves and their children.

The respect for the natural world taught at the Hālau Kū Māna School in Honolulu will continue to influence how students define their places in the world and their responsibilities to the environment.  Such values are echoed in the work of educator Tony Thomas, as he leads DC students in an exploration of the interconnectedness of the Anacostia Watershed and the possibilities that await them as they contemplate their next steps into the future.  Patrick White’s memories of growing up in Turkey Creek are central to his commitment to protecting it from the pressures of development just as Dennis Chestnut’s experiences of learning to swim and ice-skate on the Anacostia River inspired a career in which he dedicated himself to the protection of the river and its environs and to the education of neighborhood youth through his work with Groundwork Anacostia.

Students at the Hālau Kū Māna School in Honolulu converse with Doug Herman of the Smithsonian Institution

Students at the Hālau Kū Māna School in Honolulu converse with Doug Herman of the Smithsonian Institution
Katrina Lashley

If the stories of the partners in our network remind us of the commonalities in the experiences of those living along the nation’s urban rivers, their actions and successes can serve as examples.  Robert Garcia’s efforts through The City Project in LA championed Environmental Justice as a civil rights issue and were essential in ensuring the development of green spaces along the LA River.  Derrick Evans’ work with the Turkey Creek Community Initiative highlights the power of harnessing a place’s historical value to protect its environmental present.   The successes of David Karem  and the Waterfront Development Corporation and Lisa Schroeder and Riverlife, in redeveloping the Louisville and Pittsburgh waterfronts, serve as points of comparison and contrast to the successes of former Mayor Tony William’s vision of a redeveloped southeast waterfront in DC.

By providing a space for the histories, present, and futures of the various partners in its network, the Urban Waterways project is continuing the Anacostia Community Museum’s commitment to active engagement with communities both local and national.  By celebrating the work and accomplishments of residents and organizations such as The City Project, Mujeres de la Tierra, The Anacostia Watershed Society, Groundwork Anacostia, the Turkey Creek Community Initiative, and the Waterfront Development Corporation, the project reminds communities of what can be accomplished and the next possible steps in efforts to reclaim urban waterways for the benefits of all living along them.

A young girl and paletera at Rio de Los Angeles State Park, June 2013

A young girl and paletera at Rio de Los Angeles State Park, June 2013

The resulting communities that can evolve out of such engagement were made evident to me on a research trip to LA in the summer of 2013.  On a June afternoon after school the Rio de Los Angeles State park was the scene of a vibrant, healthy community.  Parents and siblings cheered on Atlan and Los Santos as they faced each other in a soccer match. Other residents strolled or jogged by on paths.  A paletera’s bells chimed in the distance and the basketball courts became crowded. Had it not been for the efforts of community members, leaders, and local politicians the scene could have been very different. The sound of cheers of encouragement, the chimes, and children at play…the vibrancy of community life could have easily been replaced by rows of warehouses. For many such a future would have been a poor substitute.

Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 2

Read the latest edition of our Urban Waterways Newsletter!

UW Newsletter Cover

For PDF of the newsletter follow this link: UW Newsletter

Urban Waterways Newsletter Spring 2014

Water and Faith

Water plays an integral role in our spiritual lives. It serves as a purifier to prepare the worshipper and sacred space for communion with a higher power. It anoints the believer as he prepares for his final journey. For some, water serves as a manifestation of the divine worthy of reverence itself. Despite the varied ways in which we incorporate water into our beliefs and expressions of faith, the common trait shared by various faiths is an instinctual understanding of the sanctity of water and other aspects of the natural world.

As communities face the issues in the growing debates and battles over the definitions and practices of environmentalism, the responsibilities and rights of residents, and the practicalities of creating healthy, sustainable neighborhoods, towns, and cities, the role of faith communities has come into focus.

What is our obligation to the natural word? Do we have dominion, or are we meant to be stewards? How can faith communities who have had a role as the leading moral forces in our communities make their environmental messages blend seamlessly into their moral teachings? Are faith communities an under-tapped source of authority in the efforts to “green” our communities?

The contributors to this issue have taken the teachings of their faiths and used them as a source of authority to participate in the movement for healthier communities, economic and social justice, and the reclamation of a natural world in which residents can find
a source of renewal and pride. For some it requires reigniting a lost reverence for the natural world that has been lost, while others find themselves awakening the members of their faith communities to their roles as caretakers. Regardless of the ways in which faith communities help to lead the fight for environmental protection and change, the possible futures remain the same: global communities in which residents are leading healthy lives.


Urban Waterways – Newsletter 2


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