Becoming the City that Planted Trees

[adapted from press release, Spring 2003]

Green space conservation in Atlanta became an urgent question for me in the wake of last summer’s destruction of the Bar Park oaks on Marietta Street to make way for (yet another) downtown parking deck. In search of inspiration for what I, as an artist, could do to act as an advocate for trees and green space in Atlanta, I re-read Jean Giono’s short story The Man Who Planted Trees and researched Joseph Beuys’ 7000 Oaks project. Giono’s story tells of a single shepherd re-foresting a devastated landscape by sowing acorns daily, year after year, as he wanders with his flock. Beuys’ decade-long work re-established monumental tree-spaces in urban settings from Kassel to New York, and involved an amazing, interconnected network of artists and volunteer workers.

So last October and November I went for a series of long harvest-walks, often in the company of my family’s trusty cocker spaniel, Noodle-Butt. In all, we collected about 2500 acorns, mainly in northwest Atlanta’s Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.

I looked for community support to nurture these acorns into seedlings, and eventually received generous donations of soil and pots from Pike Nurseries and Walker Nursery Farms. Volunteers gathered at pot-a-thon events at Atlanta photographer Nancy Floyd's house and Bill Gould's B-Complex to use these materials to prepare the acorns to grow into seedlings (and, unexpectedly, squirrel food!)

The project culminated in a gallery installation and seedling-adoption event held at the Boys' and Girls' Club Youth Art Connection Gallery in June 2003. Participants were invited to come to the gallery, choose a seedling for adoption, and mark their planting site on a wall-sized map of Atlanta. To seal their adoptions, participants filled out tree commitment cards detailing their plans for their seedlings and encouraging City of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to keep Atlanta's green space ordinances strong. These were given to Mayor Franklin in November 2003.