Sunday, September 15, 2019

Common Hour Event Highlights “Life As A Living Laboratory”

By Sonjay Singh ’15 

Staff Writer 

Trinity College students were treated to a presentation in the Washington Room last Thursday Feb. 2 by Mary Miss on her ongoing “City as a Living Laboratory” project, which she is now bringing to Hartford.  She is collaborating with Marda Kern of EcoArt Connections on this most recent project.
Miss is an artist who experiments with sculpture, architecture and landscape design to bring awareness to areas of the environment that have previously gone unnoticed. She received her undergraduate degree at University of California—Santa Barbara and went on to study sculpture at the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Art Institute.  Miss has received several awards for her work as a sculptor and she has been featured in multiple exhibitions across the country.  Now however, she is working to improve environmental awareness through artistic outreach.
She helped create a temporary memorial around Ground Zero and more recently worked on an installation focusing on water resources in Beijing for the Olympic Park. Because of her recent success, she has been the focus of art exhibits at the Harvard University Art Museum, the Brown University Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Architectural Association in London, as well as the Des Moines Art Center. 
As Miss told an eager audience, the project aims at fusing art and science in a way that is both interesting and educational.  The idea came to her one day when she was trying to understand the structure of a watershed and, frustrated by the dense blocks of uninteresting text she found online, asked a friend of hers to explain it.  “When he explained it,” she said, “I realized how interesting this information can be with the right presentation,” which spurred her to create the project.
The project has already been in many cities worldwide.  In Boulder Colo., the project erected a series of high-water marks to show the potential impact of so-called “hundred year” floods.  “Although in some places” Miss explained, “the water marks are only a few feet high, in others, they’re 15-feet in the air!”  She went on to explain that the name “hundred-year flood” is disingenuous because the floods could happen at any time, especially with an increasingly more unpredictable climate.  She also emphasized how important it is for people to understand the risks.
Another place the project has been is Indianapolis, Ind. where a series of installations along the White River allow the observer to understand the landscape in new ways.  In some points, mirrors are placed with red markings that simultaneously highlight various aspects of the environment as well as integrating the viewer into their surroundings.  Another cool aspect of this project is the fusion with technology in the “raindrop tracker” which can be seen at  The raindrop tracker shows the travel of water from raindrop to watershed.
Finally, Miss looks towards Hartford for the future.  An installation on the University of Hartford campus would show various environmental problems with manmade installations, such as pollutant build-up from retention ponds and fish barriers created by damming.  Ideally, a viewer would be able to walk the trail on campus and learn about the environment at the same time. She hopes the project will be constructed by 2013.
You can learn more at 

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