For Immediate Release

Contact: | 215.380.9327 

Today at 12p: Water Dept. to Unveil Art and Poetry Installations Inspired by Germantown Flooding Workshops

Join PWD and 2020-2021 poet laureate Trapeta B. Mayson to unveil community poetry about local flooding Saturday, June 4.

Philadelphia — Over the past year, the Philadelphia Water Department collaborated with 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson to curate Wingo-WHAT?! — a creative intervention established to spread awareness about Germantown flooding issues using poetry and spoken word. 

On Saturday, June 4, the neighborhood will have a chance to soak in new street art installations resulting from the effort. Featuring the words of area residents combined with information about flooding, the sidewalk displays will be showcased during a 12 p.m. unveiling ceremony at Maplewood Mall, located at Greene and Armat Streets. 

What: Unveiling of Wingo-WHAT?! sidewalk poetry and rain-activated art installations 

Who: Philadelphia Water Department, 2020-2021 Philadelphia Poet Laureate, Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia City Planning Commission 

Where: Maplewood Mall, located near Greene St. & Armat St.

When: Saturday, June 4th from 12 to 2 p.m

Made possible through a Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator grant from the U.S. Water Alliance, Wingo-WHAT?! kicked off last summer with a series of community-based poetry workshops held throughout Germantown.

The outreach campaign is part of an early effort to lay the foundation for a robust community engagement process. Working closely with residents will be integral to planned infrastructure investments aimed at reducing flooding in parts of the neighborhoods where sewers can be overwhelmed by heavy rainfall.

During the community sessions, Mayson guided individuals as they composed verses about their experiences with flooding, community transformation, and first memories of water.

The group came up with the name Wingo-WHAT?! based on the relationship between the historic Wingohocking Creek, now almost completely incorporated into underground sewers, and neighborhood flooding. WHAT stands for “Water History Arts-activation Transformation.” 

“It’s been an honor to participate in this project in Germantown, my home,” Mayson says. “The importance of education around water and its complicated history in this part of the city can’t be overstated. Art-activated community engagement projects encourage storytelling and welcome input and inquiry. Working in partnership with PWD on Wingo-WHAT?, and using poetry as a tool to reach residents has been one of the highlights of my community-based artistic practice.”

Following the workshops, verses from the poetry sessions were woven into the larger culminating project. 

Placed in flood-prone locations around Germantown, poems from the workshops have been lifted from the pages and placed on sidewalks using decals and stencils with water-activated paint, whose words will only appear when it rains. The rain-art stencils were created with artist Julia Terry.

Along with the sidewalk art unveiling, the event will include:

“This project has allowed the Water Department to publicly acknowledge the open wounds that exist in the Germantown community as a result of flooding and begin a process of healing that is creative, meaningful, and beautiful,” adds Maura Jarvis, Assistant Manager of the Philadelphia Water Department Public Engagement Team. “These installations, and Wingo-WHAT? as a whole, showcase a vulnerability that’s needed as the foundation so we can build toward a more climate resilient community, with trust between the City and residents.” 

The USWA’s Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator is supported by US Water Alliance staff and the One Water Artist-in-Residence. As a pilot member of this project, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is tasked with addressing a climate-related water challenge through the integration of arts and culture alongside Central Arkansas Water, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, and Tucson Water.

Infrastructure Planning

An analysis completed in 2019 by the department evaluated the feasibility and constructability of a variety of infrastructure investments designed to create flood risk reduction and combined sewer overflow mitigation benefits in the Wingohocking and Tacony-Frankford watersheds, which includes the area of Germantown that the Wingo-WHAT? project focused on. The analysis reviewed approaches that included traditional infrastructure, such as large stormwater management tunnels and storage tanks, non-traditional infrastructure, such as green stormwater systems, and a combination of those approaches.  

One high-performing approach, a deep storage and conveyance tunnel, was projected to significantly reduce the frequency, duration and extent of basement and surface flooding in multiple neighborhoods of this flood-prone area while reducing the combined sewer overflow volume, frequency and duration from multiple discharge locations throughout the Tookany-Tacony Frankford Creek.

The department is now seeking to advance the comprehensive planning, technical analyses, and stakeholder engagement for this wet weather tunneling conceptual plan. PWD is seeking grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program to leverage the cost of our continued planning effort.