Quick, what’s 30 feet long by 12 feet wide, is topped with hundreds of pounds of carefully selected junk, and recently floated down the Bronx River to Hunts Point Riverside Park, led by a flotilla of canoeists?
Why, that’s an artists’ rendering of the Lower Bronx River Watershed, of course.
Artists Alexander Levi and Amanda Schachter in January called on over a hundred students from across the Bronx to help assemble an abstract likeness of the local watershed and area infrastructure, using nearly a half ton of discarded materials and assorted debris cut and reshaped to resemble factories, parks, housing projects, highways, railroads, and natural habitat.
The teams used clothes hangers, fan parts, soda cans, potato chip bags, twist ties, cardboard, tree bark, 30 broken umbrellas, 50 PVC window frames from a demolition site, 300 sycamore burrs, 2000 plastic bottles, and 3000 metrocards to create an artwork they hope will help the public think differently about the stuff people throw away, and the places people live.
“I didn’t think it was gonna float,” said Andre Rivera, a sophomore at Herbert S. Lehman High School, shaking his head as he stood on shore, staring at the replica he’d helped build. “All that stuff that’s on it. LOOK at it.”
Rivera, who helped work on the Upland part of the massive piece, is no stranger when it comes to models. He says he regularly builds artistic likenesses of houses and cities out of Popsicle sticks.
For the last six months, the sculptors and students came together regularly to shape these seemingly incongruous shards of debris into the sculpture called the Bronx River Crossing. Four groups worked separately on the four original ecological zones that comprised the local watershed before human density changed it: Estuary, Saltmarsh, Upland, and Freshmarsh.
Finally, after the massive undertaking was finished, several hundred empty soda bottles were tied to its underside to help it float, and it was then guided down the Bronx River to Riverside Park by a flotilla of people involved in the project in canoes.
For Katherine Valverde, a student at Fannie Lou Hamer, making something out of nothing was a new thrill.
“I was really into it because I never created something like this before,” said the college-bound senior, who worked on the Saltmarsh segment of the project from its beginnings in January.
In separating the piece into four sections, the artists chose to honor the original makeup of the watershed, rather than what Bronxites see every day from cars, buses and streets.
“We wanted to divide the Bronx by its original ecology, rather than the roads, even though the original ecology doesn’t exist anymore,” said artist and project co-creator Amanda Schachter.
The Bronx River Crossing will remain moored at Rocking the Boat at Hunts Point Riverside Park for the summer before being moved to Fannie Lou Hamer High School, where over a dozen students helped design and construct elements of the piece.