Garden for a Changing Climate
|2017 – 2018|
|Goldfinch – Jun-Jul 2017|
|Gallery 400 + Chicago – Spring-Fall 2018|
A prototype of the GCC project (image above) was part of 'Marginal Green,' a group exhibition at Goldfinch gallery, curated by Elizabeth Lalley—which asked viewers to reexamine urban green zones. The reclaimed-wood planters, filled with plants dug from broken sidewalks and lots near Goldfinch, moved across the gallery, from south to north, over the course of the exhibition at approximately the real speed of climate change.
Garden for a Changing Climate is a community co-created project by artist Jenny Kendler alongside UIC’s Gallery 400. GCC partners with four Chicago community organizations to create plant-based infrastructure which will provide meaningful resilience as our planet warms, systems shift—and perhaps even collapse. Firstly, through a series of community charrettes, Kendler worked with these five communities to design and build unique plant-based solutions using reclaimed materials: vertical gardens of traditional native medicinals for The American Indian Center , reading circles with integrated planters, for Hammond Elementary & the Telpochcalli Garden, sculptural planters to stop repossession of empty lots nearby Sweet Water Foundation, and reclaimed shopping cart gardens for a food desert in Garfield Park. Secondly, through a series of climate change street fairs at each reinvigorated location, GCC works side-by-side with Chicago residents to skill-share and envision positive post-climate-change futures—staking out strategies to claim physical and cultural space against the forces of disaster capitalism, and preparing our communities to thrive in this rapidly changing climate.
The first of these street fairs will be hosted by UIC and co-created with UIC students in celebration of Earth Day on April 23rd, and events will follow at Sweet Water Foundation on June 16th, in partnership with Latinos Progresando and others at Hammond Elementary & Telpochcalli gardens in mid-July, at The American Indian Center on July 21st, and in partnership with 360 Nation at Sumner Math & Science Community Academy in August.
Garden for a Changing Climate is also a public-facing art and research project which aims to use plants to give a tangible understanding of the temporal and spatial effects of climate change—making the invisible, visible now—in this time when direct engagement is so needed. As our climate warms, seasons and ecozones will shift. GCC's series of movable planters will enact these changes in accelerated timescales, allowing Chicagoans to understand more tangibly how these changes may affect them. These plant processionals will assist us in envisioning the otherwise largely invisible, slow and dispersed threat of climate change, and illuminate how a shifting climate leads to shifting ecosystems and species—which may literally need to become mobile to continue to thrive.
Garden for a Changing Climate asks us to consider our relationship to a changing climate and asks: What actions can we take to preserve our cultural traditions and lifeways—of humans and non-humans—while working to shift the current exploitative extraction-based economy? What unexpected opportunities to restructure as a more just and equitable world may be provided during this necessary shift? And as systems shift and collapse, how can we use plant-based infrastructure to hold cultural and physical space?
This collaborative project is funded by a Humanities Without Walls (Andrew A. Mellon Foundation) consortium grant, and is a partnership between artist Jenny Kendler, curator Lorelei Stewart (Director, Gallery 400) and the Gallery 400 team, art historian and educator Hannah Higgins at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), science educator Noah Weeth-Feinstein at UW-Madison, PhD and Masters students, scientists and community organizers, activists and community members.