Call To Artists – River Room

Applications open through July 1st


An artist will be selected to design artwork with a theme of “All water has perfect memory” for the environmental non-profit Elizabeth River Project at the site of their new Ryan Resilience Lab in Norfolk, Virginia to be installed September 2023. Selected artists will have their artwork displayed at the Ryan Resilience Lab, and cash prizes will be awarded to three winning artists.


The Pru & Louis Ryan Resilience Lab of the Elizabeth River Project invites artists to design or submit existing artwork that responds to the following theme:

“All water has a perfect memory”
The Poetics of Resilience and Return

“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” — Toni Morrison

The Pru and Louis Ryan Resilience Lab is located on the Elizabeth River, a waterway that already has changed dramatically with human action and is changing once more as humans cause sea level rise. In the last century, the river was back-filled and redirected to two-thirds its historical width and twice its depth, so that the cities of today are built where the river once was.

Now, as glaciers melt and the water levels rise, the waters of the Elizabeth are remembering their way back to their ancestral beds and perhaps beyond. The Ryan Resilience Lab is intentionally situated in the path of the coming floodwaters and aims to inspire people to connect to and protect the returning river, rather than fight it. The living lab has been outfitted with eco-conscious green systems designed to address the causes of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding, as well as make it resilient to its effects.

When the floodwaters reach a critical point in 50-100 years, the Ryan Lab will be gracefully surrendered back to the remembering river, a process called planned retreat. In the meantime, the Ryan Resilience Lab hopes to model how to live in right relationship with the returning river. This inaugural exhibit aims to explore the poetics of the river’s return and the resilience of communities in its path. How can we work, play, and live with the rising water?

How can we welcome the river back to its remembered home?

Selection Criteria

A juror will select works for the show and award $1,500 for the first prize, $750 for the second prize, and $500 for the third prize. Multiple works by one artist can be selected.

Selected artwork will be displayed at the River Room of the Ryan Resilience Lab.

Submitting artists are encouraged to read more about the purpose of the Ryan Resilience Lab here and more about the background and mission of the Elizabeth River Project here. Within the site, the River Room is planned to be a space for equitable community engagement and education around the issues of climate change, sea level rise, and resilience through art and science.

In addition to being relevant to the mission of the Elizabeth River Project, the artwork must satisfy reasonable standards of permanence and safety, meet all relevant codes required for public places, and offer reasonable proof of soundness. The following criteria will be used in the evaluation process:

● Relevance to the theme of the exhibit and the topics of climate change, sea level rise, and resilience

● Artistic merit (excellence, originality, creativity)

● Harmony with the mission the Elizabeth River Project and the purpose of the Ryan Resilience Lab

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines

This call is open to all artists of ages 18 and up. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and Hampton Roads artists are encouraged to apply. There is a $20 fee to apply, which can be waived on a case-by-case basis.

Artists will grant the Elizabeth River Project a copyright waiver for the use of their artwork for the exhibit and for print and promotional use. Artists will be credited for their work.

Artwork must be large-scale (2 feet to 5 feet) 2-D works, such as paintings, drawings, multi-original prints and photography. Works using audio, video or performative elements will not qualify. Artists must include a written statement explaining the intent of their work and what it means to them, along with a short bio.

If their artwork is selected, artists will be responsible for hand-delivering or mailing their work to the Elizabeth River Project in a timely fashion. The work must be framed or otherwise ready to hang, with strong picture-hanging wire installed on the back.

Each entry must be completely original and not contain any elements under copyright or otherwise subject to third-party intellectual property or proprietary rights. Images copied from someone else’s photo or image will not be accepted. Imagery must be suitable for a public audience of all ages.

Estimated Project Timeline

All dates are estimates and are subject to change

  • March 7, 2023 – Call to artists for “All water has a perfect memory” opens.
  • July 1, 2023 – Applications close. Applications must be received by 5:00pm EST. Late applications will not be accepted.
  • July 15, 2023 – The juror selects art for exhibition by this date. All artists will be informed by email.
  • August 15, 2023 – Selected artwork is shipped or hand-delivered to the Elizabeth River Project by this date. Artwork that is not delivered or shipped at or before this due date will be disqualified.
  • September 1, 2023 – Artwork and signage is installed.

For More Information

Please contact for questions relating to your submission. No phone calls, please.

Submission Requirements

Please download and fill out the copyright waiver form to attach to the form below.

A submission fee of $20 is required and can be made here. If you would like to request a submission fee waiver, you may do so in the form below.

Youth Water Monitoring Results

Entry Data

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Sample Data



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