Hello! My name is Clare Tallon Ruen and I, with my partners Andy Given and Sarah Gottlieb would like to share a project with you. It is a dance and music installation created by LakeDance called Thirsty Flood: Impermeable that tells the tale of a relationship among three elements: rain, cement, and tree roots. Put together you have a flood but also one solution to that flood. I have come to realize that the issue of flooding in my hometown of Chicago is significant. Global water concerns are on the rise and we have here an opportunity to take a look, a careful and also creative look, at the way in which we are managing the watershed of the largest surface freshwater system on planet earth.
The performance event is the culmination of three strands that will be joined on November 3rd at Fountain Square in Evanston, IL.
- The first is an 8-week workshop with local youth. Together we are workshopping movement ideas about flooding and our relationship between natural forces and the built environment.
- The second is the sharing of information by local environmental groups working toward storm water mitigation. Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology and Citizens' Greener Evanston have been putting together information to present to the public on November 3rd.
- Third is a design initiative. Chicago residents are invited to submit designs that exist --either on the ground or in the imagination-- of property improvements that find ways to bring flood water into the ground rather than into overtaxed sewer systems. You can participate in this, too!
The involvement from professional artists, youth, environmental groups and citizens indicates to me that this is indeed a topic on peoples minds, and one that deserves attention. The creative presentation of this information is appealing because it treats the audience/learner on multiple sensory levels. Your involvement is all that is needed to make this project even more professional.
The money we hope to raise will be offered in part to our two participating environmental organizations: Center for Neighborhood technology and Citizens' Greener Evanston. Also proceeds will be given to compensate artists on their time in rehearsal and performance. 12 young artists and 5 mature artists are involved in this project.
Perks for you! We have so many talented partners that you are really in luck here. From jewelry to signed art to performance relics to original sound tracks, we hope you will feel well appreciated.
Your participation in this project will not only directly benefit local artists and individuals in water poor regions of our world, it will link you with the global water movement. Water, considered by many to be the "new oil," or "blue gold," is a basic resource that tends to be invisible to those of us living in water rich regions of the world. While it’s not easy to put our energy into things that don’t seem to directly affect us, urban flooding in our region is a very real very annoying water situation that may serve as a catalyst for local changes as well as a more global water awareness. Join us! If you are in the Chicago are, consider sending a design idea and also coming to the performance.
Since 2009, LakeDance has successfully presented several other Great Lakes Watershed educational performances and solo dance improvisations that have been performed around the midwest, including water and wilderness conferences in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.
More background on urban flooding in Chicago:
As the last glaciers retreated, just 11000 years ago (a hot minute geologically speaking), they melted and filled our region with water--creating the Great Lakes, as well as the streams and wetlands that covered so much of Illinois. Young landscapes like ours, landscapes that have just emerged from under mountains of ice, are very poorly drained. Rivers run slowly, sometimes changing directions if the rain flooded one part or another. Wetlands developed on lowlands-- catching and holding rain, sponge-like, permeable, porous-- before releasing the water into the ground. These wetlands were appreciated by settlers like the Pottowatami for the diversity plants and animals they attracted.
When Europeans arrived in the early 1800s they were attracted less by the region’s natural resources and more by the potential for moving trade goods from the Great Lakes westward using the proximity the Mississippi river basin. To achieve this end and to accommodate a large number of permanent settlers, the slow moving waterways and abundant wetlands would have to be changed; dredged, drained, ditched and filled.
90% of Illinois wetlands are gone: filled or drained in the past 200 years.
That’s a significant change. Yet there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: gravity.
Gravity still calls water from high to low, and the low spots that have replaced the spongy wetlands are all too often your basement.
Urban flooding is a term that only exists because cities have replaced woodland, prairie, and wetland with non-permeable surfaces like cement and asphalt causing the water to stand for a much longer time that it would have in pre-urban situations of heavy rainfall.
What can be done? Well, we could take jackhammers to everything concrete and move into tents somewhere far away. Or we could try in as many ways possible to draw the water in by planting trees and plants and by create surfaces that are more porous than what currently covers the ground in cities.
For more information on urban flooding and practical solutions, please visit the tables set up near the back of Fountain Square with representatives from Evanston Tree keepers and Chicago Center for Neighborhood Technology.
Chicago Wilderness Alliance, Chicago Wilderness Atlas of Biodiversity, Chicago,2011.
Cronon, William, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, W.W.Norton &Company, New York, 1991.
Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Properties Into the Fields, Woods, and Wetlands: A biological Survey of Plants and Animals, Chicago, 2012.
Clare Tallon Ruen