The weather was perfectly fitting for the occasion—pouring rain wasn’t going to keep the city’s water experts bundled up inside. In rubber boots and rain slickers, Toronto’s watershed community came to Evergreen Brick Works for the inauguration of Watershed Consciousness, Toronto’s largest living map depicting the rivers that flow through the city.
"The forests in the ravines are our lungs, and the rivers that flow through Toronto are our kidneys," said Geoff Cape, Evergreen's executive director. “We hope that through this watershed wall, we help re-connect Torontonians to the natural forces that sustain us."
The artwork itself contains living plants, which, like the plants in Toronto's ravines, draw nourishment from the flowing water. The brick and steel supports of the wall are also integrated into the art.
“The whole purpose of the artwork is to re-connect us to the watersheds that sustain us – to look at a map of Toronto from a different perspective and raise our water consciousness,” said artist Ferruccio Sardella.
Adele Freeman, Director of Watershed Management Toronto and Region Conservation was one of the morning's speakers. "I am so proud to have been associated with the first phase of regeneration of this site including the Weston Quarry Garden," she said. "And I am humbled to stand here today with Evergreen and the volunteers that represent those who have tirelessly over the years advocated for the protection and health of the watersheds, rivers and ravines that are the hallmark of this city."
Many commented on the visual impact of the design, which puts the emphasis on Toronto’s river systems instead of the roads. Said John Wilson, from Task Force to Bring Back the Don, "many people who will visit Evergreen Brick Works will have a mental image of the city that is limited to the rectangular grid of the road network that we see on most city maps."
He hopes this artwork helps to change that perception, and that people are inspired to remember our rivers and to "enjoy our water, to play, to be creative and have fun with it."
Madeleine McDowell, of the Humber Heritage Committee and Humber Watershed Alliance, was instrumental in having the Humber declared a National Heritage River, and another inspiring speaker of the morning. She spoke about her childhood experiences wandering through the woods and waterways with family, and wished “everyone—children and adults—the same hands on, feet first, respectful bonding and understanding given me of ‘Ontario’ our soul movingly ‘Beautiful Lake’, and the rivers that feed her.”
Sardella continued with this sentiment, adding, "it is my highest hope that the installation serves this critical ecological issue well, and in so doing celebrates the inspired work being done by all of you to protect, promote and rejuvenate the watersheds and ravines of our city.”
To make the connection between our household water use and our rivers, the audience was invited after the ceremony to come up to the water wall and, with magnetic bricks, put their homes “on the map.”