Larger-than-life diatoms illuminate a critical part of the food web for endangered freshwater mussels.
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Fairmount Water Works, Freshwater Mussel Hatchery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Laser cut acrylic

15 feet high by 22 feet long

Part of the Mussel Hatchery Exhibition and Aquatic Field Station

With Victoria Prizzia of Habithèque Inc.

Supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Philadelphia Water Department, with additional support from The McLean Contributionship and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


This bold, colorful diatom artwork gives visitors to the Fairmount Water Works' Mussel Hatchery Exhibition a visceral sense of what's in the water, and why keeping these tiny single-celled algae viable is vital to the health of freshwater mussels. Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled animals in North America, and diatoms are a critical element of these bivalves' food.

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Visitors to the hatchery can see the life cycle of the mussels, and peer into the lab where mussels are being bred. Because Diatom Lace is translucent, viewers can see through the artwork into the lab.

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Laying the individual diatom cut-outs on the layout plan in the studio provided a chance to see how different colors and shapes would interact.

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The intricacy of microscopic diatoms comes into view. Together with Glass Flash Card, Diatom Lace educates visitors to the Freshwater Mussel Hatchery exhibit about what freshwater mussels need to stay alive and thrive.