Circumnavigating the city on foot: A tutorial on boundaries

by Carla Robinson
Posted 2/16/23

The current exhibition at The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, which explores the nature of borders – whether they are natural or manmade – comes with a field trip.

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Circumnavigating the city on foot: A tutorial on boundaries


The current exhibition at The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, which explores the nature of borders – whether they are natural or manmade – comes with a field trip.

“Walking the Edge” is curated by Jacques-Jean “JJ” Tiziou, who also happens to be the creative mind behind “Walk Around Philadelphia,” a twice yearly trek around the 100-mile perimeter of Philadelphia that is now in its ninth year. This exhibition, which will be up through the end of March, is a kind of celebration of that event – which is running now through Feb. 25. And don’t worry about whether you’d be able to walk it all – you can join in whenever and wherever you wish. 

“There are always lots of places to peel off for anyone who feels they can’t walk the full length,” Tiziou said. “This walk can be accessible to anyone, whatever their fitness level.”

Many of the artists featured in this show have made this particular trek at some point over the past nine years, but not all of them. But they’ve all used their art to express their “impressions, reflections and encounters on walking borders, limits and perimeters in nature,” according to center spokeswoman Amy Krauss.  The resulting collection of work, which embraces walking itself as an artistic practice that reflects on the human relationship with nature, is as diverse as the city it showcases. Some address the city’s geographic edge more directly while others interpret the themes more metaphorically.

Speaking last Friday, after the first walk segment of this series, Tiziou said his adventures invite participants to ponder the nature of boundaries, what they are, what they mean, and what they do and don’t do for us. 

 “These walks blow up our center-centric perspective of our city as we explore the margins, and all the things that we push there – from toxic waste dumps and  scrapyards to prisons,” Tiziou said. 

They’re also a basic tutorial on the value of the pedestrian experience, he said. 

“These walks give us a physical embodied knowledge of our city, a humbling perspective on the vastness and the complexity of the place we thought we knew,” Tiziou said. “In a world where everything has gone so virtual, this is a real grounding in reality. In a world that values speed and directness, this is a time when you get bonus points for slowing down, and going the roundabout way.”

Register for one of these walks and the instructions page contains obvious hints about what to expect.

“If you encounter an obstacle, simply walk around it. While detours and delays might seem frustrating, they are instrumental in setting you up for unique experiences,” the website states. Also: “Be open” to fatigue, discomfort, pain and frustration – and also to beauty,” and “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

Tiziou’s circumambulation of the city is typically broken up into roughly 10-mile segments, which are walked over a series of at least three weekends. This year, the route is counter-clockwise, starting at 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue and finishing up there once again on Feb. 25th.

This Friday, Feb. 17, walkers will gather at the South Philly Walmart and walk up the Delaware River to Bridesburg. The following day, Saturday Feb. 18, they’ll meet in Bridesburg and walk up to Torresdale, finishing up the day at Glen Foerd mansion on the Delaware River. Then on Sunday, the 19th, they’ll follow the Poquessing Creek to Somerton, at the very northern tip of the city, and on Monday, President’s Day, they’ll walk along the Northeast boundary to wind up at the Cheltenham Avenue H-Mart, where they will stop and have dinner. 

The last two days of the trek are reserved for the following weekend, Friday, Feb. 24, when they’ll start at the H-Mart once again and follow Cheltenham Avenue to Ivy Hill Road and take Stenton Avenue all the way up to the Wissahickon Creek, winding up at the Schuylkill Environmental Center for a special evening of chair massages, herbal foot soaks and snacks - as well as extended hours at the gallery. 

On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 25, they’ll start at the center with coffee and bagels from 10 to 11 a.m., then walk along the Schuylkill River to Manayunk, and cross City Avenue to St. Joe’s University. They complete the final leg on Sunday, walking down City Avenue, along Cobbs Creek back to their starting point, at 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue. 

The exhibition will be on view in the gallery and on the website through April 1, 2023. There is a sliding scale for registration fees for each walk segment, ranging from $15 to $50. Go to to register. Using public transportation to access departure and end locations is highly recommended. 

The Schuylkill Center’s Environmental Art Program, founded in 2020, is based in the belief that the creative process is uniquely suited to address environmental topics of our time.

Jacques-Jean Tiziou is an artist, massage therapist and block captain. He creates public art experiences, hosts house concerts, and has walked the full perimeter of the city nine times. His 85,000 sq. ft. “How Philly Moves” mural at Philadelphia International Airport was recognized as one of the nation’s best public art projects by Americans for the Arts.

For more information about the exhibition, go to To register for the walk around Philadelphia, go to Walk Around Philadelphia.