Betsy Damon: 2000 AHN Awardee

The Arts & Healing Network applauds Betsy Damon for her vision, courage, and perseverance in creating environmental artworks that address issues of water conservation. Her most recent work includes the creation of the Living Waters Park in Chengdu, China. The purpose of this park is twofold: to help purify the local water supply, which had grown dangerously polluted, and to provide pleasant surroundings for people to wander, converse, and observe nature in action. The design includes a series of ponds that contribute to cleaning the water, a pump house designed to look like old Sichuan tea houses, and an amphitheater that seats 400. The result is a large-scale park that is not only lovely, but educational and purifying.

Upon receiving the AHN Award Betsy Damon wrote the following thoughts to share with visitors to this web site:

"'I give you my hand,' I say to the person next to me in the circle and everyone repeats the words as they take the hand next to them, next we go around again saying our hands form a circle and thirdly our circle is powerful. A web of relationships is created from which we can all go into world with the strength of each other.
In 1985 while working on a riverbed with ten artists, I felt in my body what was happening to every living thing when water quality is lost. At the end of working all day in the riverbed, I saw that the web of life was woven by water. At that moment I knew that I would give myself to water. Water became my teacher, and guide. By listening to this source of life I learned what this young person never forgot. 

When we forget the water
We forget the child
Who begins in the water?
When we forget the child
We forget ourselves and then
We forget the world.

~ Florence Daley, Cottonwood, Minnesota USA

When I was young, art was my escape from the world and I could create my own world. Leonardo and CÚzanne were two of my greatest sources of inspiration as people who combined art and science. Learning how to be an artist in the world, to make art in community was a process that took me 30 years. I slowly evolved through the feminist art movement with role models like Judy Chicago, Pauline Oliveros, Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, and Emma Goldman.

At some point I followed a voice inside of myself that said you know what to do, go do it. These guides assisted me in China to bring many together, try things everyone said were impossible. It was the relationships we made in trying that opened the doors to make a park."

For more information about Betsy Damon and her work, please visit the Keepers of the Water website.


Listen to Betsy Damon speak about her work by using the audio player below.

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