On display throughout Artosphere Festival 2018
What is it?
Topo Map for School Avenue (2018) is a temporary public art installation made of thermoplastic by artist Stacy Levy. City of Fayetteville and Walton Arts Center commissioned the artwork with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Its form is a life-scale topographic map of the terrain between Dickson and Mountain Streets and a visual reminder of the issues of water in Fayetteville’s hilly landscape.
Topo Map for School Avenue is an example of ecological art, an artistic practice that preserves, remediates or vitalizes the life forms, resources and ecology of Earth. The artwork was constructed by Levy over a 2-week period with support from Fenix Fayetteville artists and volunteers.
Topo Map translates how nature works in the urban environment. It reflects the steepness and micro gradients of School Avenue on which Levy draws the path of flowing rain revealing the areas where the storm water gathers.
Topo Map for School Avenue investigates the intersection of nature and urbanity. The artwork promotes environmental literacy as walkers stroll through the ecological story linking three of Fayetteville’s cultural institutions, Walton Arts Center, KUAF and the Fayetteville Public Library.
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About the Artist
Sculptor Stacy Levy collaborates with nature within the built environment to tell its ecological story. She makes nature’s processes visible to the people that live within it. One of the busiest environmental artists working today, Levy translates these unseen processes into a form that people notice. She uses manmade materials to contrast with nature blurring the categories of sculpture, landscape architecture and science. Levy lives in Pennsylvania and creates art works throughout the world. In 2013 Levy created Spiral Wetland, a temporary floating structure planted with native grasses in Fayetteville Lake.
Fayetteville before urbanization
350 million years ago, long before the city of Fayetteville was built, Northwest Arkansas was covered by a shallow sea. Within the last several hundred years, oak-hickory forests have grown across most of northern Arkansas, including the mountain range known as the Boston Mountains, a part of the Ozark Mountain Range.
On February 27, 1835, President Andrew Jackson issued a patent for 160 acres of oak-hickory forest forming the original settlement of Fayetteville, bound by what is now College Avenue on the east, Gregg Avenue on the west, Dickson Street on the north, and South Street on the south. In the nearly 200 years since, urbanization has occurred.
Urbanization affects how water moves in the landscape
When natural areas are urbanized, the peak runoff flow rate is increased. During the peak of a storm, water runs more quickly in an urban environment than it would in a forest or grassy field. Topographic factors such as elevation, slope length and steepness play a role in hydrology. Features such as a flat slope and grass infiltration areas can slow the water flow rate.
Sustainability and hydrology
‘Sustainability’ means meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. Sustainability can aid in reversing the effects of urbanization by enhancing infiltration, reducing imperviousness and directing runoff to natural areas. Development of the natural landscape is nearly always harmful to the natural environment. When communities are aware of the hydrology around them, they can advocate for sustainable practices to be part of urban development.