Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Case study: Stroud Water Research Center

Stroud Water Research Center (red), and the Brandywine
River Museum (blue), which is renowned for its holdings
of the Wyeth family of artists.
Arts at the Stroud Water Research Center.

Notes by Fred Swanson 9/8/2015.

These comments are based on an encounter with Director Bern Sweeney at the 2015 LTER All-Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, CO, which he had been invited to attend as lead of an LTREB project. I first encountered Bern while visiting with Robin Vannote, then Director of Stroud, during the River Continuum Concept (RCC) project period of the late 1970s and later as I visited my parents who lived only 25 mi away in northern-most Delaware.


The Stroud Water Research Center was established in 1967 in the Brandywine Creek valley, southeastern Pennsylvania. The Stroud family owns extensive rolling farm and forest land in the area where they have a long history of crop, dairy, and poultry production. The Stroud home (mansion) contains an impressive art collection (I viewed it during a dinner for a gathering of scientists working on a renewal proposal for the RCC), and the agreement to create the Stroud Center facilities and program stipulated that art be displayed in the facilities, even chemistry labs where the air quality can damage the art.

At the 2015 All-Scientists Meeting Bern told this story:

 Mr. Stroud called him up one morning and asked him to go over to the house. When Bern arrived, Mr. Stroud told him that one of the many art pieces in the house had been appraised in the range of $1.5 - 2 million, and if Bern could pick it out, the piece would be sold and the funds donated to the endowment for the Stroud Center.

Bern gave a couple tries and failed, so Mr. Stroud took him to the front entryway and identified a very large brown painting with a single, horizontal black stripe – a Rothko. Eventually the transaction was conducted.

Art has been a part of the Stroud Center programs in many forms, especially in education programs. One such class involves art students learning about aquatic science while canoeing down the Brandywine Creek. At one point in the program they collect and view aquatic invertebrates under microscopes streamside, and then are asked to take a sheet of paper and draw their favorite mayfly or caddisfly that they have collected.

 However, they are asked to draw the critter with one half of it showing the individual “as is” and then, let their creative juices flow, and draw the other half freeform to better represent their impressions from the field experience. Eventually the class makes its way downstream and pulls out on a grassy bank. The students go to the nearby house where artist Jamie Wyeth (of the many generations of famous Wyeth artists in the area) greets them and shows them around his studio.

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