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Mapping Our Watershed

Rebecca Schultz

I park my car along the road, looking for a way to access the water. There are no paths here, so I scramble down the slope, carefully placing my feet on tree roots to keep from slipping. When I reach the creek, I am amazed by how wild it feels. I am in the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watershed; the words Tookany and Tacony come from the Lenape word tèkëne, meaning woods or wilderness. This section is less than half a mile from a residential neighborhood where the creek is almost unrecognizable, a trickle of water languishing in a cement trough. Before coming here, I looked at flood risk maps of the creek in this area; the channelized section floods significantly more than this section, where the water is left to run its course. The water runs clear and cool, around a dazzling variety of rocks–schist and gneiss, both banded, layered metamorphic rock common in this area. Trees and shrubs in the brilliant green that signal the shift from late spring into early summer cluster on the creek banks. I press my finger into the wet soil on a steep bank; underneath, it is a dense, deep red. I pull out my bag and trowel and begin to dig.

Matter and energy
Plants releasing their color and adhering to fabric
A map transformed by the sun
Sieving and grinding soil to make paint
Foaming plant-based color as it binds to minerals and becomes insoluble
Using photographic chemicals to produce pictures of soil
Dozens of artworks created in community, with materials sourced from local ecosystems
Stitching, combining, gluing, painting

Rebecca Schultz, Mapping Our Watershed, 2023, Matter & Energy

This artwork represents the culmination of Mapping Our Watershed, a participatory community science and art project I facilitated in Cheltenham Township. For more information about the project, please visit

Work in Matter and Energy

Rebecca Schultz, Mapping Our Watershed, Cyanotypes tinted with witch hazel, moringa, wild strawberry, mulberry, and echinacea, soil chromatography, and plant-based acrylic paint with soil, lake, and eggshell pigments on hemp; suminagashi prints, photo collage, soil watercolors, plant prints, and pencil sketches of soil collaged on canvas, 2023. NFS

Rebecca Schultz, Council Rock Collaboration Three, Graphite, soil watercolor, acorn ink, and willow bark on paper, 2022. $3,000

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