Public Water: a multisite project by Mary Mattingly

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

What does it mean to reframe your relationship to the water systems around you, both visible and invisible? What if you began to see yourself as a steward of this most precious resource?

More Art is producing an artwork by Mary Mattingly focused on the NYC water supply and its relationship to the West of Hudson (WOH) Watershed. The project, titled Public Water seeks to engage both upstate and downstate communities in the production of the artwork to inspire a dialogue that results in reciprocal care, with downstate residents realizing the effects of over-usage and the extent of care people upstate are performing to maintain the NYC water supply, which provides more than a billion gallons of fresh, clean water daily from the WOH Watershed to nine million state residents. 

This public art project investigates the watersheds that feed the NYC water supply; the experiences of the stewards based in the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds; and the complex way this system connects Hudson Valley and NYC residents. We invite the public to rethink ideas about water care and access, and to share expertise and personal stories that will fuel the content and messaging of the project.  We’ll explore the network of care that exists in the watershed, touching on concerns about water quality, water access, privatized water, water infrastructure, local water issues, and more.

In this moment of rising environmental urgency, at home and around the world, this is an invitation to examine the relationships to water that tie us to this place and one another. The recent threats of rollbacks to clean water protections have brought us to a tipping point. This project provides an opportunity to amplify the work of Hudson Valley communities, and, in this moment of change, envision a more balanced future.

These programs may be especially interesting to performers, writers, and artists, as well as those interested in preservation and advocacy related to topics including water quality and management, or individuals who are looking for innovative ways to raise public awareness around environmental justice and community-led efforts around water issues. 

During Spring 2020, the material generated in the workshops will be presented in conjunction with a sculpture installed in a public space in NYC that provides a stage for storytelling, encouraging dialogue with the public. The artwork will bring attention to the extent of care upstate stewards are performing to maintain the NYC water supply. The installation will include programming developed in collaboration with environmental justice and water organizations from watershed regions and New York City. Workshop participants are invited to continue collaborating on the project as a performer, or as an advisor/project partner for the Spring 2020 public presentation in NYC.


  • Mon, Jan 13 :: Stars Down to Earth exhibition opening, including an artist talk by Dario Robleto @ Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza / Central Branch. Click here to register.
  • Thu, Feb 20 :: Green Series: “Ecology: The Original Commons,” artist talk with Mary Mattingly @ Brooklyn Public Library, Leonard Branch. Click here to register.
  • Thu, Mar 12 :: Green Series: “Make Seed Sculptures with Mary Mattingly,” workshop for ages 8+ @ Brooklyn Public Library, Greenpoint Branch. Click here to register.
  • April – June :: Public Water installation in Prospect Park, Public Programs and Performances, dates TBD. 


If you would like to  be involved or stay informed about the goings-on of the project, please fill out this form.

Please contact Elana Lado at for more information.


About the Artist
Mary Mattingly is a visual artist focused on questions of ecology and sustainability and the Katowitz Radin Artist-in-Residence of 2020 at the Brooklyn Public Library. 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.


Programming for Public Water and associated projects have been  produced by More Art in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, the Prospect Park Alliance, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program