WORKING TO MOVE BEYOND SUSTAINABILITY IN DESIGN
Salt Tree Art finds inspiration in the regenerative agriculture movement, where holistic approaches to agriculture generate positive impacts to the ecosystems and communities linked to food production.
Salt Tree Art explores similar paths for creative processes to integrate with natural and social systems, revitalizing the links between them. Rather than align with the “green” movement by promoting ecofriendly habits within conventional frameworks, Salt Tree Art is working to move beyond sustainability in design, and to create healing within the environment and communities our projects serve.
Salt Tree Art uses a systems method to achieve this vision, with exploration and engagement of interrelated ecological and social systems as the foundation for each project. The regenerative art vision gives equal standing to the artist, the public, and the natural environment, with each as active, empowered peers throughout the design process.
UNDERSTANDING REGENERATIVE DESIGN: A PARK BENCH EXAMPLE
A conventional park bench may use plastic or standard lumber products in its construction, having a net negative environmental impact over its life. Decisions on the design and installation of the bench may also not engage the community, instead treating the public as consumers of the final product.
Sustainable design may eliminate the environmental footprint in generating a park bench from local, renewable materials (such as creating a rustic bench from a storm-damaged tree from within the park itself). It may also work to create community linkages (such as engaging a local craftsperson in creating the bench).
Regenerative design begins with examining the ecological and social systems of the park. Problems with erosion and stormwater runoff in the park might be resolved with a grass-covered earthworks to act as a swale (to slow and redirect water runoff). Shaping the earthworks to allow for picnic use, or even innovative strategies like placing inset seating within the earthworks, can still achieve the overall goal of public seating within the park while also having a positive impact on its environment. Engaging the public through charerttes during the design process, and as volunteers during installation, may lengthen the overall timeline for the project, but offers an opportunity for much stronger links between the project and the community.
Paper mâché sculptures create an inoculation medium for a variety of edible mushrooms, such as lion’s mane and pink oyster. The sculptures allow for a regularly harvestable yield of product from forested areas that lack the light requirements of most conventional food plants. The sculptures naturally deteriorate through weather exposure and fungal decomposition, providing an instrument for ongoing artistic expression and creating an educational opportunity to introduce and discuss the essential role of fungi in forest health.
In 2017, Salt Tree Art produced the proof-of-concept piece, Breath (shown below), which was showcased at the Northeast Organic Farming Association's annual conference. For the 2018 season, Salt Tree Art will be experimenting with fully-scaled mycology sculptures in a NYC community garden.
Honeybees communicate through a “waggle” that expresses the location of food through dance. Salt Tree Art organized a 2018 Earth Day celebration with a participatory dance performance inspired by the waggle. The event included a bee-themed pop-up art show and educational tables. More information about the Waggle it! performance can be found at the event website: https://waggleit.dance
Out of the Dirt
Wheat grass roots are trained to create a binding fabric for eco-fashion pieces. These living fabrics play off of the idea of grass as the primary food of leather-producing animals, and so as an origin material for leathers.
The pieces are unusual for ecological art in that they are not rooted to a particular venue, but instead are mobile and wearable, allowing unique opportunities for public interaction. In 2017, Salt Tree Art premiered a root grass harness, Cowboi, at NYC’s Folsom East Festival. The living harness is shown below worn by vegan model Zachary Kovel.
Willow serves as an organic sculptural and architectural tool.
Dried willow can trellis an assortment of vining plants, including local grape varieties, squashes, and hardy kiwi. In 2017, Salt Tree Art began installation of Homing, a work combining willow construction with gardened earth works. The dried willow stalks are woven into a homing pigeon pattern, and the sculpture will provide a trellis for grapes and flowering vines. The tail is shaped with soil, and will be covered with flowering plants and herbs designed to convey a sense of beauty, security, and functionality. When completed, the work will form the centerpiece in an urban orchard of dwarf fruit trees for a community garden in Brooklyn, New York.
Living willow is well-suited for marginal spaces that are too wet to support conventional plantings, and can be harvested annually as a perennial resource. In 2017, Salt Tree Art created, Welcome, a living willow dome structure as part of a new childrens' garden installation in Brooklyn. As the dome structure continues to grow and strengthen, the outer ring of the willow will begin to bow open, mimicking the petals of a blooming flower.
This approach can be scaled, with larger willow structures, similar to the concept rendering below, creating living pergolas for events and public programming.
Salt Tree Art is actively supporting a large-scale project to create a multi-acre community space in New York’s Hudson Valley that fuses an edible botanical garden with collaborative explorations of the arts. The Salt Tree Project is currently working toward this goal by building community support and fundraising for initial capital expenses.
BRIAN, PRINCIPAL ARTIST
Brian is an active visual and performing artist. Recent work has been with New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Muse Circus (a Brooklyn-based circus performer school), Hour Children (a Queens-based program designed to break the cycle of incarceration), and the Blue Hill Troupe (a premier performance-based charity group).
He is the creator of Victorian Variety, an artistic incubation project that offers emerging artists a safe space to workshop new material, and he has served as a teaching artist in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York with students from ages seven and up with experience in curriculum development and implementation for a number of artistic disciplines.
Brian has also been serving as a creative lead for the Salt Tree Project, a concept project to develop a community space in New York’s Hudson Valley applying artistic techniques to a farm-based landscape.
Since 2002, Brian has worked in arts and event production for a range of private, corporate, and non-profit clients. His events have included multinational brand awareness campaigns, national-level fundraising operations, and nationally/internationally broadcast media events.
Brian holds a B.A. in Theatre Production from the University of Delaware. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG/AFTRA), Actors Equity Association (AEA), and Puppeteers of America.
JEN, ASSOCIATE ARTIST
Jen brings Salt Tree Art a rich background in character improvisation, music, and directing, with particular skill in projects that fuse performance with visual arts. Jen is also the CEO of the performance company JJurek Artists LLC, as well as the founder of the NYC-based Hallet's Cove Puppet Theatre, which provides puppetry programming to youth in the borough of Queens.
Jen believes that small-scaled performances that engage local venues and small businesses offer the greatest community impacts, making genuine connections between neighbors and encouraging expressions of creativity from participants.
KRISTEN, ASSOCIATE ARTIST
Kristen has been a freelance graphic designer since 2004, as well as an Art Director for graphic design firm Big Yellow Taxi since 2005. Her clients include global agencies such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization, educational companies including Hooked on Phonics and the Wall Street Journal: Classroom Edition, and a broad range of corporate and nonprofit clients, from Pokémon to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She holds a B.F.A. in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts.
LAUREN, ASSOCIATE ARTIST
Lauren designs and implements innovative curricula in dance and performance for the New York City Department of Education. She holds a B.A. in Education from New York University, and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University.
NICK, ASSOCIATE ARTIST
Nick is a graduate of Mason Gross School the Arts, where he focused on digital and studio art. He has recently received his Master's of Science in Management of Information Systems from NYU. He considers himself an artist supporter, helping other creators realize their visions by combining project management techniques, financial planning, and technology, in a useful system to navigate the actual business of being creative. He is in the process of creating several "world-building" 2D drawing and digital prints, that mimic growth patterns he has observed while gardening and growing plants. His latest work has hung in "Beware the Beasts Below," an art show dedicated to the beauty and variety of life and environments in the deep oceans of the planet.
MIKE, BUSINESS ASSOCIATE/HORTICULTURAL CONSULTANT
Mike currently manages a therapeutic horticulture program with over 40 sites in New York City, including in-ground and rooftop farms, an apiary, and propagation and hydroponics greenhouses. He coordinates the program’s curriculum-based vocational trainings and food security programming.
He has also been serving as a business associate and horticultural consultant for Salt Tree Art, and a horticultural lead for the Salt Tree Project.
Mike received his MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of London. He is a member of the New York Horticultural Society’s Professionals Alliance, is an Organic Land Care Professional for the Northeast Organic Farmers Association, and is a US Green Building Council Accredited Professional.
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