"Brooklyn Farms: Past, Present, Future" commission
Brooklyn Farms: Past, Present, Future
2010, digitally printed from three 1' X 5' acrylic paintings on Tyvek paper
Installed in Fall 2010 on the front fence at The Old Stone House /J.J. Byrne Park, Park Slope, Brooklyn, digitally printed as 3' X 15' murals on eco-friendly vinyl
Will be installed on a construction barricade in J.J. Byrne Park in March 2011.
Also designed in conjunction with the Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City show, September 2010.
This project considers how The Old Stone House’s (OSH’s) agrarian past can inform its future, juxtaposing plants from OSH’s edible garden with scenes from the neighborhood’s past and present, and a greener, more sustainable future. The choice of imagery in the mural was generated largely by elementary school students in the Garden Explorers program, and translated into final paintings by the artist. The students discussed the garden plants’ various uses and chose their favorites to include in the mural: basil, beans, beets broccoli, corn, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, mint, okra, raspberry, rosemary, squash, and tomatoes. These plants are arranged alphabetically from left to right in the foreground of the mural.
Students also learned about the Old Stone House’s past as a Dutch colonial farmhouse, and how people grew, processed, and sold their own food in Brooklyn for many years. The imagery in the “past” section is appropriated from students’ drawings and historic paintings from OSH‘s and the Brooklyn Historical Society’s collections. The group then discussed and sketched where food in Brooklyn comes from today—much of it made in factories, then shipped over great distances to the shelves of grocery stores and fast food chains—and how that process impacts the environment and public health.
The group concluded by exploring the various benefits of local farming, from reduced energy usage to fewer pesticides to healthy food access for more people, but also the challenges of inserting more green space in a fully-built environment, and some creative solutions to this challenge by artists and agriculture groups. Students then brainstormed their own solutions for OSH and its neighborhood environs (for the “future” section), some fanciful (a solar-powered farming robot, oversized giant fruits grown on rooftops), and some inspired by existing methods (window gardens, hanging gardens).
Brooklyn Farms: Past, Present, Future serves as a tribute to the ongoing role of the Old Stone House as a neighborhood environmental resource, and a call to action for a greener neighborhood.
This project was generously supported by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Consolidated Edison, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Special thanks to Bruni Torras, Garden Explorers instructor, and Kim Maier, Executive Director, Old Stone House
Student participants: Saskia and Miranda Heath, Kate Jeffrey, Chloe Kaplan,
Julia Pepper, Lucy Postal, Abbe Schulties, Margareta Stern, Claudia Thompson