Betsy Damon


Click here to see more images of Betsy's Keepers of the Waters project, or click the image below to see an enlargement of the Living Water Garden (200k).

Discussion Questions
1. How do you think Betsy's projects in Chengdu might change how people think about the Fu River?

2. Are there legends about the rivers where you live like the washing silk story in Chengdu?

3. What art projects could you do that would help people think in new ways about rivers?

Betsy Damon's River Art
An American Environmental
Artist in China

Chengdu, China. In Betsy Damon's Keepers of the Waters Project, one artist took a series of photographs, made a collection of prints, and, in a public display, allowed the images to visibly decompose in shallow dishes of polluted river water (pictured below).

Another group of artists created in a public square a large ice sculpture made of dirty water from the Fu River. Then they provided curious citizens with brushes for symbolically "scrubbing" the tainted ice as it melted into dirty puddles in the heat of the Chengdu summer.

A third group of artists (left) re-enacted an ancient Chengdu legend in which a great warrior is said to have washed silk in the cleansing waters of the river. But the long white sheets of silk washed by the artists only became stained and brown.

These remarkably imaginative projects are all the more unusual when you consider they were inspired and coordinated by an artist native to the upper Mississippi watershed--not the land that drains into the Fu.

Betsy Damon's success with the Keepers of the Waters project in Chengdu was shaped in part by similar projects with students in her home state of Minnesota. Working with staff from the Pollution Control Agency, she and a group of students created an environmental sculpture garden near Duluth, Minnesota. Through this experience, she learned to bring together scientists who know about river issues, public officials, and artists interested in helping people think about environmental problems in new ways.

The Keepers of the Waters project attracted so much interest in China that Betsy was invited to return to Chengdu and design a six-acre water garden along the banks of the Fu River (pictured at left). The water garden will be a center for education, art, and recreation. Plans include natural filtration ponds to clean the water, a green house, an environmental education center, a fountain, and an amphitheater.

Once the Chengdu Water Garden is completed, Betsy would like to extend the Keepers of the Waters program to Beijing China, Vancouver Canada, and other cities. She'd also like to build a Living Water Garden on the Mississippi River.

Betsy will be connecting with Rivers of Life from Chengdu, where she is supervising construction of the Living Water Garden.

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