about the project.

2020-2021, Online and at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

More Art’s public art commission by Mary Mattingly brings attention to New York City’s intricate drinking water system and the communities who steward upstate watersheds and drinking water sources. With this project Mattingly emphasizes the human care that goes into having access to clean water and calls for more reciprocal relationships among our neighboring communities and the planet. Public Water will take the form of a year-long online campaign, “A Year of Public Water” featuring a website and virtual programming beginning in June 2020, leading up to the public sculpture—a water-filtering, sculptural ecosystem—and performance on view at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park in Spring 2021.

PUBLIC WATER is produced by More Art in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Alliance, and the NYC Parks Department. An earlier version of the sculpture originally appeared as “The Parts Never Lead to the Whole” in the exhibition Stars Down to Earth: Mary Mattingly & Dario Robleto (January 13 – March 13, 2020) at the Central Library. 


The project is supported in part by the Lambent Foundation, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, the Joseph Robert Foundation, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support for educational programming has been provided by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.


Education around stewardship is an essential programmatic component of PUBLIC WATER, and sees Mattingly and the More Art team bringing the project into learning spaces both for the public and in local schools.

In March 2020, More Art began a collaborative project with the AP Environmental Science (APES) class at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics High School (BCSM), coinciding with their unit on water and land use. We held two classes in-person before shifting our work online via Zoom with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. We explored the NYC public water system and discussed issues of access, privatization, environmental stewardship, and the relationship between art, education, research, and social/environmental justice.

Working with the concept of art making as an act of stewardship, the students created art projects that aim to spark awareness of the water system, and presented them to their peers and teachers for the school’s first Virtual STEAM Night in June. We will be publishing the finished projects on public-water.com, on More Art’s Medium page, and on social media.

Coinciding with the opening of the sculpture at Prospect Park in Spring 2021, training sessions to community members on bioremediation and the invisible systems and resources that shape the biome will also be held in the Park and in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library, where Mattingly is serving as 2020 Katowitz-Radin Artist in Residence. These volunteer “stewards” will then serve as public educators, activating the work over the course of the installation.  

The Alliance has also commissioned Mattingly and More Art to produce a hands-on, DIY water-filtration kit, which will be presented during Audubon programs led by the Alliance, and engages families around issues surrounding water systems both natural and manmade, both in timing with PUBLIC WATER and the launch of the ecoWEIR.  Prospect Park Alliance is installing this natural filtration system to reduce toxic blue-green algae blooms in the park’s waterways, which are fed by the NYC water system. This innovative pilot, the first in an urban park, is funded by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through a $390,000 grant.


about the artist.

Mary Mattingly is a visual artist. She founded Swale, an edible landscape on a barge in New York City. Docked at public piers but following waterways common laws, Swale circumnavigates New York’s public land laws, allowing anyone to pick free fresh food. Swale instigated and co-created the “foodway” in Concrete Plant Park, the Bronx in 2017. The “foodway” is the first time New York City Parks is allowing people to publicly forage in over 100 years. 

Mattingly recently completed a two-part sculpture Pull for the International Havana Biennial with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, two spherical ecosystems that were pulled across Habana to Parque Central and the museum. In 2018 she received a commission from BRIC Arts Media to build What Happens After which involved dismantling a military vehicle (LMTV) that had been to Afghanistan and deconstructing its mineral supply chain. A group of artists including performance artists, veterans, and public space activists re-envisioned the vehicle for BRIC. In 2016 Mattingly had led a similar project at the Museum of Modern Art. In 2009 Mattingly founded the Waterpod Project, a barge-based public space and self-sufficient habitat that hosted over 200,000 visitors in New York. In 2014, an artist residency on the water called WetLand launched in Philadelphia and traveled to the Parrish Museum. It was utilized by the University of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Humanities program until 2017.