HighWaterLine Delray Beach – A Social Sculpture

Originally presented by Mary Jo Aagerstoun at Elle Schorr Art Salon on February 3, 2015


Rising sea levels are affecting communities all over South Florida. There are several communities, such as Delray Beach, that are doing something about it. Florida Earth Festival and the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County, together with many community partners, are working to showcase Delray Beach’s efforts. The hope is that other communities will follow. On April 25th, Eve Mosher’s performance art work HighWaterLine, will be the centerpiece of Delray Beach’s Earth Day event. The purpose of HighWaterLine is to educate the public on the locations most vulnerable to effects of climate change through a powerful performance artwork that engages people where they live and work. 15 miles of HighWaterLine, will be chalked in short segments in 3 different low lying or flood prone neighborhoods: 2 near the Intracoastal Waterway and one on the mainland near 1-95; The project will underscore current and future effects of climate change, including sea level rise, on Delray Beach’s urban landscape and those who live and work there, while also highlighting the city’s efforts to address emerging challenges. To date, HighWaterLine has been performed in 4 cities, including New York City (2007), Miami (2013), Philadelphia (2014), Bristol, UK (2014). Delray joins Boston for HWL events in 2015.

The HWL Delray Arts Collaborations Committee is partnering with other HWL committees to identify sites along the Line for complementary performative or installation art collaborations to help make the scientific and historical information about what could happen in the neighborhoods along the line very visible. Local artists, especially those from Delray Beach and nearby in Palm Beach County, will create the art collaborations, to be located or performed along the Line.

Dale Andree’s Waterdance “movement choirs,” will provide illumination along the three chalked lines at dusk, culminating in a finale performance at Veterans’ Park on the intracoastal. Dale hopes to recruit hundreds of participants of all ages, to include local dance professionals and students, as well as Delray citizens from neighborhoods that fall within the HighWaterLine. The choreography will be built on gesture ideas elicited from Delray residents and the public via social media.

Mary Jo Aagerstoun is chairing the arts collaborations effort and will be at the Art Salon, with several of the artists working on the collaborations, to share what is being done..

Two organizational members of the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton (UUFBR) and the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County (LWV) secured funding to bring HighWaterLine to Palm Beach County. The Climate Action Coalition is a broad-based group of non-partisan non-profit organizations, faith groups, and individuals collaborating on the issue of Climate Change and its consequences in South Florida. On April 18th and 19th, UUFBR’s Florida Earth Festival will host HighWaterLine workshops and rehearsals in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County. On April 25th, the City of Delray Beach is centering its 2015 Earth Day event on the HighWaterLine.

Dr. Keren Bolter, a mapping specialist from the FAU Center for Environmental Studies has generated maps to identify areas in Delray where elevations at high tide are below 4 feet. The edge of the 4 foot elevation will be where the HighWaterLine will be drawn. Many of the neighborhoods at or below 4 foot elevation are already flooding regularly at high tide and during the annual King Tides in October. As climate change effects intensify, scientists warn that a combination of major rain events, high tides and rising groundwater levels could lead to more frequent and more devastating floods that will make these areas uninhabitable. Delray is one of only a few coastal communities already facing up to these realities and planning for them.

Mary Jo Aagerstoun most recently founded and ran EcoArt South Florida (http://ecoartsofla.org), a nonprofit organization promoting art and artists who make public art works that directly improve the environment. She stepped down from leadership of the organization in December, 2014 to write a book about EcoArt, and devote more time to encouraging the emergence of a strong cadre of artists interested in considering activist art as a new creative direction and outlet for their concerns, especially about the climate change crises facing us in Florida. To that end she convinced the new Climate Action Coalition of South Florida to embrace the HighWaterLine, developed by Eve Mosher in 2007, as a kickoff for the Coalition’s ambitious plans. Mary Jo has a Ph. D. in Art History from the University of Maryland at College Park, with a specialization in activist art of the 1980s and ‘90s in the US, and in 19th century French and American art. She moved to West Palm Beach in 2004 and has served on several West Palm Beach advisory boards and committees, including the Public Art Committee, and the Sustainability Advisory Committee.

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