Grand Concourse Trees Talking?

Published on June 18, 2009, 1:00 am
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Along the four‐and‐a‐half‐mile stretch of the Grand Concourse—the historic boulevard connecting Manhattan to the parks of the North Bronx—a most unusual “museum without walls” opens Sunday, June 21, 2009, and remains on view 24 hours a day, seven days a week until October 12, 2009 as part of the centennial celebration of the “Park Avenue of the working class.”

A winter tree with the rooves of typical Concourse buildings.

One of the tree museum Haiku Hike led by poet E.J.McAdams, with Mr. Brunelle Griffith's freshman honors class from All Hallows High School.

Conceived and realized by the Irish artist Katie Holten, the Tree Museum invites pedestrians to experience the Bronx in unexpected ways, offering insights into its hardy communities and fragile ecologies. 100 green and flowering trees from 138th Street to Mosholu Parkway, including shade varieties planted a century ago as tiny saplings for the Concourse’s Grand Opening, are the points of entry to this museum. “I’m using the trees as a starting point to look at all the neighborhoods, the environment, and how everything is connected,” says Katie Holten. “I see it as a way to give a voice to the inhabitants, the streets, and neighborhoods from the past, present, and future.

The audio guide at the core of the Tree Museum links the natural and social ecosystems. Markers will identify the trees by species and location number. By keying the location number into a cell phone, a sidewalk “museum‐goer” will be able to access audio segments that overlay impressions of the past, present, and future to a walk along the Concourse, whether it be the way that weather affects tree growth or visions of the pre‐Concourse Bronx with farmland as far as the eye can see, the glory days of the 1920s, and the rise of Hip Hop in the 1970s. DJ Jazzy Jay, the architect Daniel Libeskind, urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter, local beekeeper Roger Repohl, community garden activists, local historians, and neighborhood teenagers will be among those sharing their stories and knowledge. Other segments will bring the sounds of the borough’s trees, animals, and insects to the listener, as well as music by some of the Bronx’s best‐known talent.

Drawings, sketches, and writings by Holten related to the concept and planning of the Tree Museum, information on current “green” activities on the Grand Concourse, and artwork about the areas ecosystems by local school children will be presented in two satellite exhibitions: one at Wave Hill on view from June 21 to October 12, 2009, and the other at The Bronx Museum of the Arts from August 2, 2009 to October 25, 2009. The Bronx Museum exhibition, entitled Intersections: The Grand Concourse Commissions, features works of art commissioned to honor the centenary of the Grand Concourse, including largeformat color photographs of specific points along the boulevard by Jeff Liao (Taiwan).

Opening Day Celebration and Parade

On opening day, Sunday, June 21, at 5 pm, the percussion group BombaYo will lead a parade from The Bronx Museum of the Arts at 165th Street – where a street fair celebrating the history of the Grand Concourse will be held (12‐5pm) – to 161st Street and the Lorelei Fountain in Joyce Kilmer Park. A ribbon cutting ceremony will officially open the Tree Museum, Majora Carter will speak, local singer/songwriter FeSS will perform Bloom ‐ a new song composed for the Tree Museum, poet E.J. McAdams will lead a Haiku Hike and refreshments will be served.

Tree Museum collaborators include All Hallows High School, School for Environmental Citizenship: PS 386, Bronx County Historical Society, Bronx Writing Academy, DreamYard Preparatory School, New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers, Risse Street Community Garden, South Bronx Urban Farm, Sustainable South Bronx, Bronx River Alliance, Daniel Libeskind, DJ Jazzy Jay, and borough residents Valerie Capers, Majora Carter, FeSS, and Joyce Hogi.

The Tree Museum is a collaborative project organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts and Wave Hill, with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, cooperation from the NYC Department of Transportation and support from The Greenwall Foundation’s Oscar M. Reubhausen Commission. For more information on the Tree Museum please visit www.treemuseum.org.

Katie Holten

The artist Katie Holten, who represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, grew up in the Irish countryside and studied Fine Art and History of Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin. Holten works in a variety of media—drawing, installation, sculpture, and printed matter—to focus on the relationship between the individual and the environment. She has received commissions from museums and galleries worldwide and exhibits with LMAKprojects (New York), Gasser & Grunert (New York), and Van Horn (Düsseldorf). For more information please visit www.katieholten.com

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The flagship cultural institution of the Bronx, founded in 1971, The Bronx Museum of the Arts focuses on 20th‐century and contemporary art while serving the culturally diverse populations of the Bronx and the greater New York metropolitan area. The museum is located in a contemporary landmark designed by the internationally‐renowned firm, Arquitectonica. For more information visit www.bronxmuseum.org.

Wave Hill

Wave Hill is a 28‐acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts. For more information visit www.wavehill.org.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

NYC Parks & Recreation’s public art program has consistently fostered the placement of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, collaborations with arts organizations and artists have produced over 1,000 art projects in City parks. Committed to the exhibition of art by both emerging and established artists, Parks & Recreation has supported projects ranging from international exhibitions in flagship parks to local, community works in neighborhood parks, playgrounds, and traffic islands. For more information visit, www.nyc.gov/parks/art.

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