Please join us from 12-2pm for an introductory design charrette centered around the idea of a new walking bridge over the Park River connecting the University of Hartford’s campus to the North End of Hartford. This will be followed by a presentation from the artist Elyn Zimmerman.

In 1978, Elyn Zimmerman installed “Conduit”, a line of granite that ran along the bank of the Park River. About 40 years later, the piece has been re-installed by the University of Hartford’s Cohort 2 (Zahar Al-Dabbagh, Fatric Bewong, Blair Butterfield, Sophy Tuttle), with the guidance of University of Hartford’s Operations team, Ricardo Reyes, Mary Mattingly, Carol Padberg, Tom Bradley, and Elyn Zimmerman.

New England Grassroots Grant Recipients!

P.A.R.K. is so delighted to announce that we received a grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund to continue our work with this exciting project. The fund is “…the only organization of its kind dedicated to inspireconnect, and support community-based environmental projects throughout New England. Grassroots Fund’s niche is to help those on-the-ground, everyday people for whom grassroots work is a passion and whose volunteer time is a priceless contribution to the common good.”

We will be using the money to plan and implement a design charrette on campus at the University of Hartford on June 15th as well as do research in the community.

Imagining a Connection

The new cohort of artists working on the Park River Project have envisioned creating a path that connects the campus of the University of Hartford to neighborhoods to the north. This path would include a living bridge over the river, as well as animal habitats, an artist’s residency, and environmental observation stations. We envision this path as a way to engage local community members with the environment around them to foster regenerative relationships between people, flora, and fauna. Our project focuses on bridging North Hartford to the University of Hartford, humans to humans, humans to nature by physically building a bridge, creating interactive installations, and creating programming that engages the community. 

Some of the key goals of this project are to: 

  • Enhance the quality and responsible use of public waterways
  • Provide a space where people can engage with the Park River while learning about the local flora and fauna; a place for artists to make creative projects; a place where field work can be conducted
  • Co-create a Living Bridge with living trees and vines that connects not only a physical space, but also visitors with ecology beyond their geographical location as the river is a line of energy enjoyed by all, including local animals.
  • Build Observation Stations made of ecologically conscious materials
  • Acknowledging the river’s history
  • Engage on a deeper level in the culture of the river through its history, its active ecology, and its movement, as a curated artistic experience.
A bridge maquette created by artist Fatric Bewong.
A bridge maquette created by artist Fatric Bewong.
A beehouse/birdhouse maquette created by artist Sophy Tuttle
A beehouse/birdhouse maquette created by artist Sophy Tuttle

Tell Us Your Stories!

A new cohort of Nomad/9 students has picked up where the first cohort left off on the Park River Project. Artist Blair Butterfield is spearheading a project to collect stories from the local Hartford community about the Park River in an effort to paint a more cohesive picture of its history and relationship to the inhabitants of the land surrounding it. If you have a story about the river, personal, historical, or otherwise, please call (802)332-5028 and leave it as a message. 

Over the Red Bridge: Photographs of Steer Creek


Over the Red Bridge: Photographs of Steer Creek
This series of photographs started in January 2017 and ended in April 2018. Every week that I was in Missouri during this timeframe I photographed Steer Creek from over the red bridge. What started as a need to continue a photography practice while in graduate school and focusing on textiles, grew into a project related to the public art component of my program, Park River Tool Kit.

These photographs show the more obvious change over time, ebb and flow of the seasons, and the human interaction with the creek and land surrounding it.

Visit the project.

PRTK Events in June 2018

On the evening of June 21st, 2018, the Park River Toolkit exhibition will open at Hartford’s Real Art Ways. Please mark your calendars!

Following the opening, on June 23rd the Park River Toolkit will host events at University of Hartford’s campus. The events will begin mid-day in the Joseloff Gallery and include a Park River-based workshop led by Mary Pelletier, Founding Director of Park Watershed. The workshop will be followed by a foraging walk led by UHart’s Nomad/9 Foraging Group and a local expert. Finally, speakers (TBA) will present their work related to the Park River in Hartford.

Park River Indigenous History, Part 1


In my ongoing research about the indigenous history of the Park River and the surrounding land, I have been part of an email chain-gaining some information and then being directed to others who know a little more. To date, I have received additional information from Dr. Paul J. Grant-Costa, executive editor of The Yale Indian Papers and Dr. Katherine Hermes, Department of History Chair at Central Connecticut State University.

My notes:

*The Indigenous name of the Park River is unknown.

*The Park River ran through land occupied by the Suckiog.

*Native communities such as the Podunk, Wangunk, and Tunxis used the Park River. All these communities including the Suckiog were connected through family, political and social relationships as well as clanship.

*The Hartford area was part of the Pequot War, which was a conflict between the Pequot tribe and English colonists and their Native American allies. The Pequot obtained the land (that is Hartford today) through Indian conquest just before the Pequot war. After the war the land was returned to the local indigenous communities that had been previously defeated (rather than the Pequots).

*As the watershed grew the Suckiog relocated. Many moved to the Tunxis community.

*The river was most likely used for travel, and as a seasonal resource for food and plants.

*Wangunk territory may have been larger than usually reported.

*Historians and anthropologists created tribes out of what were actually clans. This may have led to misconceptions about each of the communities.

I have reached out to another set of professionals with knowledge surrounding the Park River. Additionally, I am reading and listening to suggested secondary sources. These notes will be posted in a post called Park River Indigenous History Part 2.

Suggestion for foraging toolkit


A foraging workshop for plants would involve story-telling and identifying plants at river’s bank. It can also be our research result about some spots along the river. We can launch it online and place them in our greenhouse.

Things that can be included:
-Names, characteristics of the plants;
-Usage, recipes, crafts (It can be a workshop including foraging, making, and teaching);
– The relationship with the environment (Natural? Urban? Half? Novel eco-system?);
-The relationship with human activity (Plants that move with a certain group of people, i.e.: Broadleaf Plantain is considered “white man’s footprint”; plants that brought by farming and gardening; personal memories, etc.)

Suggestion for starting our work:
-Take a picture of a spot, identify as many plants as we can based on pictures.
-Search for the information and materials in relation to the above categories.
-Group and analysis of our materials.

Readings and reference:

  1. Novel ecosystems-
  2. Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order by Richard J. Hobbs,Eric S. Higgs,Carol Hall-
  3. Plants in CT-
  4. Water treatment related projects, and the idea of turning ‘problems’, ‘invasive’ into  resources, it also relates to the idea of novel ecosystems –
  5. Good example for physical tools and presentation-
  6. Another good example for foraging, and the concern about the relationship between humans and the environment-



Park River: The Underground River

What if…

There was an underground art party in an underground river?

There were tours on the history of the Park River (also known as the Hog River)?

Would graffiti artists give artists talks on how to tag the tunnels of the river?

Could there be science class for children on canoes?

Below are some accounts on canoeing the Park River:

Canoeing the Park River

Paddling Hartford

The Hog River Revival 

Sad City Hartford Takes On The Park River

Artists Canoe Underground

How To Become A River


  1. Go to your nearest river
  2. Stand as close as you can
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Smell the river
  5. Breathe the river with your open mouth (don’t drink the water-it’s probably not safe)
  6. Touch the river (If you can)
  7. Listen to the sounds of the river
  8. Think about how corporations are killing you (you as person and as a river) with the commodification of water
  9. Water the river with your tears
  10. Kiss yourself is like kissing the river…we are all water

Interview questions for Hartford Residents.

Born in Hartford, I wanted to gain a different perspective of the Park River in Hartford as I believe that the miss-education of some will provide consequences for the environment around us as well as people who directly interact with the environment.

I came up with these questions to create a very different narrative of the relationship between water and people. My goal is to have people understand the gaps of understanding around water. I will share different  Hartford residents and their understanding of Park River.

How important to humans is water?

Do you know Hartford was built on a body of water?

Have you heard of Park River before?

If I told you everything you did that included water is contaminating that same body of water you live on would you find it to be an important to change your habits?

Would you let your child play in the river? Why/why not?

Would you allow your child to drink river water?

Do you drink tap water in Hartford?

Do you think the river water directly effects tap water in Hartford?

How often does the city flood?

Free Bottled River: An Interview On Art, Water, and Commodity

ParkRiver1.JPGReflections on making art at the Park River.

An artist interviews herself.

A work of art is a gift, not a commodity…Every modern artist who has chosen to labor with a gift must sooner or later wonder how he or she is to survive in a society dominated by market exchange. And if the fruits of a gift are gifts themselves, how is the artist to nourish himself, spiritually as well as materially, in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities?   -Lewis Hyde, The Gift

In 2016, artist and activist Desiree Duell did a performance piece, Free Bottled River about the commodification of water using the Park River as a site. Duell based in Flint, MI has spent the last three years creating work around the Flint Water Crisis using art as a tool for activism to create awareness around environmental injustice. She came to Hartford, CT for a graduate residency in the Nomad9/MFA program in Sustainable Culture. Every day, she walked over the Park River to attend class at the University of Hartford. She eventually spent some time contemplating at the Park River on the commodification of water.


Can you explain the impetus behind Free Bottle River? What was your relationship with the Park River when you performed Free Bottled River?

The performance was to examine my own relationship to rivers. Even though I grew up in Flint that has the Flint River running through the city-it never was a part of my existence until the Flint Water Crisis. Most cities in America have been built near rivers, but now it seems like they don’t exist within our built environment. When I was in school last year, I kept walking over the Park River then decided to really spend some time with it. What I realized is that a river is much more than just water-it’s an entire ecosystem of dirt, plants, wildlife, and water. Then thinking about how we consume water, bottled water, and the privatization of water in its relation to both environmental injustice on both humans and landscape. I thought by bottling the river as raw material and giving it away to the public by river was to show the absurdity of commodity in our culture.

You gave away the bottled river for free. Do you think the meaning of the performance would change if you sold the bottled Park River?

It’s been suggested to me on several occasions to sell Flint River water as art many times. Although, I don’t find that interesting as art because its just reenacting the same paradigm that lead to the Flint Water Crisis. Water has already become a commodity through the bottled water industry that making it into art seems to condone and support that industry which is dangerous for both the environment and humans.

How do you live with the tension of creating art as a commodity and sustaining yourself as an artist?

Well, water and art are not that different that we need both to survive. Humans need water for our physical existence and art for our psychological well-being. My work is about unveiling the injustice created by our capitalist society, which is rooted in commodity. So, I have to live with the contradiction of selling or funding my work as a commodity in order to make work about the toxicity of commodification. It’s completely absurd. Why should I do have to drink bottled water, but am also paying for poisoned water? Why do I make work about environmental injustice, but have no relationship with the natural environment? At the end of the day, I have to sell my art to sustain my family and buy water.


What did you learn from doing this performance? Do you think the performance was effective? How would do perform this piece now?

It was interesting to see how the public took the bottled river as a gift once it was presented as art. It always surprises me how we as a society are so addicted to our objects. I gave some away to children and people who passed by my bench. Although, I think the irony of getting bottled river while sitting next to the river was lost on the public. I think the performance was effective in that it I helped understand my own relationship with the river. Coming back to the Park River, I have a deeper sense of what a river truly is as an entire ecosystem. This year I stood in the Park River and it was a completely different experience than last year. If I could redo the performance again-maybe I would have people bottle their own water while standing in the river.



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