Pockets of Light: a trash-to-treasure tale in the intersection of art and the environment
How Eric Dale and Julie Woodard are turning Philly’s waste into stunning installations
A new installation combines puzzles and art from upcycled trash to connect visitors with their surroundings.
Eric Dale and Julie “Juicebox” Woodard created Pockets of Light, installations housed at four piers along the Delaware to raise environmental awareness. The installations, sponsored by the DWRC, can be found on Race Street Pier, Cherry Street Pier, Washington Avenue Pier, and Pier 68. The obscure displays are the entry point to lesson topics like pollution and littering. As Woodard states, “We’re highlighting nature through something that is not natural, and by repurposing these materials into something beautiful, we hope to attract you to the interactive learning components.”
The materials used in the art installations are sourced from local Philly trash, interior designers, and people in fashion who have textile scraps to share. While art is the entry point to the experience, visitors can learn about plastic pollution and how to address it personally and on a larger scale.
Both artists have a long interest in the environment and art. Coming from a family of artists who use found materials in their work, Woodard is a community gardener in Point Breeze and is using plastic for the first time in this exhibit.
On the other hand, Dale double majored in geology and environmental sciences. During a volunteer trip to Midway Atoll, he saw the impacts of plastic on the island. Albatrosses eat the plastic to the extent that their carcasses eventually burst open. “That’s where my hatred for plastic came from,” he explains.
When Woodard initially approached Dale about bringing her art to a public space, they discovered their shared interests in plants and animals. “We want to encourage people to explore the world around them, specifically along the waterfront and its beautiful natural features. And one way to highlight them is art, and catching your eye differently. And this happens to be all made out of trash.”
The “trash,” mainly bright textiles and consumer goods, comes together to make beautiful flowers to draw passersby into the puzzling activities. But, according to Woodard, trash as a medium can be pragmatic and principled. “Using trash to create native plants is an interesting concept because they’re highlighting nature through something that is not natural,” she said.
Each location has a puzzle and a scavenger hunt to find Woodard’s art. “You have to use your powers of observation and figure out a freeform abstract puzzle,” Dale says. Additionally, visitors can learn about the native plants like Black-eyed Susan flowers in Woodard’s artwork and where to find them nearby. “There’s a lot of information about what pollinators use this plant, which animals eat this plant, and the indigenous uses of it.”
While people may discover the installations by stumbling upon them, QR codes along the waterfront trail also help lead pier visitors to the exhibits.
Dale and Woodard’s social profiles encourage participation, and visitors can tag themselves to win prizes, including art and ecology tours.
You can visit the installations through the end of September.
Find out more from Dale’s website, on Instagram and Tiktok as @ericthepuzzler and Woodard on Instagram at @juiceboxworkshop.
Photos courtesy of Eric The Puzzler