Artist takes a deep dive into Alexandria’s wastewater

Dec 9, 2020

An exhibit at a waterfront art center in Northern Virginia is bringing new meaning to the term “crowdsourced.” The only action residents of Alexandria, VA, had to take to contribute to the artwork was to flush their toilets.

sTo Len, a New York City-based artist who grew up along the Potomac River in Alexandria, said he likes to think that the work he has completed as the first artist-in-residence at a wastewater treatment plant is “endearing people to their own waste.”


The collection of photographs, prints and found objects on display at the city’s Torpedo Factory Art Center is something of a collaboration, after all, with the city’s residents.

In the exhibit, a pair of prints featuring brownish swirls was developed by applying paper to the surface of a settling tank at the AlexRenew Wastewater Treatment Facility. The plant treats a mix of sewage and stormwater, running the wastewater through a series of settling tanks and treatment processes to remove nutrients before discharging it to tributaries of the Potomac River.

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