Stacy Levy is an environmental artist born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and currently lives in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania. She collaborates directly with natural processes like tides, erosion, plant growth, wind direction, and rain. She constructs large-scale sculptures to show the presence of nature in the city. Levy’s projects often float on rivers or lakes, or are placed in parking lots and streets. Her work reveals the hidden natural world in our urban environment and brings out the beauty of nature. Levy works with building architects, landscape architects, engineers, horticulturalists, and soil scientists to create her works. The collaboration makes it possible to make works for natural systems, like the infiltration of rainwater, to function and thrive. Speaking of her role in a collaborative team, she wants to be the mediator between nature and art. Regarding her role, she says, “Engineers and scientists are kindred spirits to artists, they, too, are filled with wonder and curiosity about nature. My particular job is to make visual metaphors to translate the natural world.” Working alongside scientists will further enhance the expression of science in art and vice versa. She has projects in many cities in the United States, which include Philadelphia, Seattle, Phoenix, and Portland, Oregon. Currently, she has commissions open around the world. The majority of Levy’s artwork focuses on water. Her work with water ranges from acid mine drainage to urban streams and rivers, and to rainwater. Some of her water work includes projects for Penn State University and Springside School in Philadelphia, to which she partnered with the Philadelphia Water Department and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Many of her recent projects utilize storm water runoff in order to make rainwater a necessity to the site. Levy enjoys the union of science and art, which is why she finds ways to express the workings of a system in a visible and comprehensible form. Calendar of Rain was a visual record of the precipitation that occurred between June 2013 and June 2014 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF). Levy created Calendar of Rain to give the weather an evolving look, which is a topic that has been known to be dull and boring. She says, “What I really like is to make something that changes for people who are passing by all the time.” People do not notice what is always there in their ordinary, daily lives. This led to Levy wanting people to take notice of the changes occurring around people and look beyond what is visible. Every day outside the CHF, a funnel connected to a glass jar outside would collect rainwater with the dates labeled. After the 24 hours, the jar was capped and placed in the collection. The collection of glass jars created a visual bar graph of the precipitation over the year. In an interview with a CHF staff, Levy spoke about Calendar of Rain. She wanted it to be a way of observing common items around us to be able to explain important facts about our environment, and how we can better understand the concept of urban nature. At the end of the exhibition, the jars were given to visitors as mementos of the year-long event. With this artwork, Levy was representing the union of science and art and how both can make an impact together. She says, “What’s it going to feel like for you to experience this piece of science? That’s this moment of science I really love, because people were like, ‘Wow, look how the world works. Check it out.'” This goes back to the topic of weather being boring; Levy is engaging with her audience and makes them see the changes in everyday life. Furthermore, she wants to make a boring topic appeal to people because as boring as it may be, it is important to know about it. People must be aware of the changes in weather and how noticing these changes can be beneficial in the long-run. It is better to notice these changes early as to take preventative actions if needed and not notice when it is too late. Rain Ravine was a commission for Pittsburgh Park’s Frick Environmental Center, Levy collaborated with building architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and landscape architect La Quatra Bonci, to convey the rain water through the site in a way that is both functional and evocative. Levy also collaborated with the education department of the Pittsburgh Conservancy. She worked with building and landscape architects and engineers to find a way in which art can solve the site’s issue with storm water. This project is meant to be part of the Living Building Challenge, which fills the requirements for net zero water flow and beauty. All the rainwater from the roof flows through the sculpture, consisting of a series of ever-deepening stone runnels. The stone runnel emphasizes the movement of water in wet weather and reflects the power of water’s eroding force in dry weather. Rain Ravine attracts visitors to come to witness the flow of rainwater, taking on an educational role. Visitors can also play in the water as it rushes past the building. In its dry state, the artwork gives people a vivid image of the geologic patterns to seek out as they explore more deeply into Frick Park. Levy also provides a visual metaphor of what they are to expect and will find in the park. She explains, “I riffed on the geology of the local shale that naturally breaks into beautiful curves.” Levy wants her audience to appreciate the beauty of geography and how water interacts with the land. She also wants her audience to learn about the issues of storm water by physically interacting and engaging with the site. Whether it is an enormous amount of water or little to no water, it equally has an impact of late and the way it looks. Spiral Wetland was a project that was inspired by Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in 1979. It was temporarily located in Lake Fayetteville in Fayetteville, Arkansas and supported by the Walton Art Center as part of the Artosphere Festival. The main goal of the artwork was to heal and transform the environment for the better. These constructed wetlands were meant to help remove excess nutrients from water by exposing the water to microbial processes facilitated by the plants and organic matter of the soil. It is meant to improve water quality and produce much-needed wetland habitats for fish and other water creatures. Overall, the main focus of the artwork was to significantly help and improve the environment. Levy wanted to convey the meaning of art while also doing something beneficial to the environment. The artwork consists of a 129-ft long spiral floating wetland that is made with Juncus effusus, a native soft rush that grows in a closed cell foam mat. To keep it in place, it was anchored to the lake’s floor. The plants help remove excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from the lake water, and add shade for fish habitat. The project was up from 2013 until the summer of 2014. During this time, the sections of the wetland adopted and transplanted into other wetlands and retention basins in the region. There were volunteers from the Walton Art Center helped install the project in fishing boats and kayaks. Levy’s artwork was not only for the sake of the environment, but it also united people and got them involved in helping improve the environment. It also got people involved in art and science. Spiral Wetland was an amazing and inspiring artwork that has the potential of influencing people all around the world to do this for nature, and overall do things that will help their environment. Ridge & Valley is a 924 sq. ft. map shaped like the Spring Creek watershed located at Penn State University. The surface of the map is made with Pennsylvania blue stone punctuated by three boulder ridges. The ridges rise from the terrace to create seating. All of the local streams and waterways are depicted with runnels carved 1/4 inch deep into the stone. Additionally, the map is angled so that the water flows in a way that is similar to a watershed. Whether it is dry or wet, anyone can see the outlines of the geology and the watershed of the area. The purpose of Ridge & Valley is to reduce pollutant loads in rainwater safely, and move, control, and contain rainwater to be able to reuse that water for irrigation, toilet flushing, groundwater recharge, and for other purposes on campus. This artwork also serves as a way for students, faculty, and staff to have an idea how the watershed flows and gives them the opportunity to find their watershed address. Having the work on campus helps everyone on university connect with the artwork and with each other. Levy states, “People can see how their landscape works: where the rain water flows and where the mountain ridges are, and they can get some idea of the locations and names of the streams where they live.” She appreciates when people are able to interact with her artwork. It is meant to be more than just raising awareness and being an innovative idea for helping the university. When people are able to connect with one another over something like this, it gives the art more value and purpose. Pink Level is an 84-acre of restored land located in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, near Levy’s studio. Pink surveyor’s tape was wrapped around each tree trunk to the height of sea level, creating a wedge of pink in the forest. This wedge of color shows the water level if the forest were flooded by rising sea level. The top edge aligns with the distant horizon, an unexpected phenomenon while creating the slope registration. This brings the audiences’ attention to a site’s vulnerability to the rise of sea level or flooding. Levy spent her first decade out of college as an urban forester, which explains why she used this site to put her work. She recalls, “I’m always borrowing from disciplines that need to make visible marks in nature to leave temporary signs in nature so they can find borders and boundaries.” Levy’s passion is to involve and use nature in her work to bring out awareness. She wants to leave her physical mark by wrapping the pink surveyor’s tape and making it obvious that it is her mark, therefore making it obvious that she is trying to convey a message. To her, it is important to make your message obvious if you want people to know about it. Straw Garden was a six-month long installation in 2012 at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington. It was a temporary project for The Next Fifty at the Seattle Center that was commissioned by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. It was inspired by Le Compte’s design for Versailles. The artwork is made of erosion control wattles in the shape of a baroque garden and then takes the form of a watershed. All the plants used to make this project are native species of perennials, which are plants that live past two years, and shrubs. At the end of the exhibition, the garden was divided and delivered to other landscapes that needed restoration and erosion control. In the end, the garden became part of the community, even after the exhibition and its division. People were able to view the garden in two ways, either from within the garden and from high above in the manor house. This gave the audience two perspectives and ways of interpreting the artwork. To people, interpretation of the artwork can vary depending on the way they see it from and this gives them the ability to value the work. Even if the artwork is no longer in its original location, it has been spread throughout the city. It is still a part of the city and the people, making it valuable and giving it a significant meaning. Sky Blossom was installed in 2016 at Mall C of the Downtown Cleveland Mall in Cleveland, Ohio. Levy was commissioned by LAND Studio and collaborated with landscape architect James McKnight, Osborn Engineering, and fabricators Rust Belt Welding. The artwork celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Shaker Lakes Garden Club. Levy’s Sky Blossom was inspired by flowers in the garden and the meander of the Cuyahoga River as it passes through Cleveland. The colored steel fins are representative of the ships in Lake Erie.
The fins are suspended off steel poles that rise 15 feet out of the ground and face different directions. They have tapered ends, making it seem as if they are flying through the poles. Levy used pastels colors such as pink and blue to color the strips, giving the artwork a light, airy, cool feeling. Additionally, the colors represent the blossoms and the sky. The piece is a way of interacting with nature and the elements, which are wind, water, and earth. It gives off a feeling of serenity and peace. At the same time, it is a clash of the elements even as they are represented together in the artwork.