The ‘Comma’ community arts Project was funded by the Government as an empty shops project with the intention to raise awareness of a butterfly park in the local area, encouraging the interest of wildlife found there as well as encouraging interest in art.
There was an open call for artists to send residency proposals on how they’d use the shop space and engage the community. My proposal was to engage the community in an environmentally aware project creating a forest with them from Britain’s native trees like Oak, Birch and Scots Pine during the residency. I wanted to show the difference between a diverse indigenous British forest and one of just Spruce trees to show what we could lose forever and so I proposed that once the forest had grown I would replaced the indigenous trees with a forest of spruce trees. Although this would only show visual differences I hoped it would have enough impact to intrigue people to want to know more.
When Britain’s native trees are chopped down they are usually replaced but often it’s with non-native faster growing species. Our trees are beautiful and nature’s pattern is being wiped out and redesigned, often being replaced by faster growing trees such as spruce. It’s not just their beauty that we’d miss though trees absorb carbon dioxide and older trees often store large quantities safely away and as carbon dioxide is probably the largest contributor to Climate Change these trees could help save our planet.
But deforestation means the carbon dioxide is released into the air, which adds to our problem of Climate Change and could cause irreversible damage to planet. This isn’t the only problem it’s causing, they often house wildlife who’s survival is dependant on that particular species of tree.
Communities Native Forest growing
Communities Native Forest on open evening
My proposal was excepted and I spent one month as artist in residence & workshop leader at the ‘Comma’ community arts Project. I held almost daily drop in workshops for the community to attend to make a forest of paper trees constructed from recycled book pages taking the material back to its origin and depicting the shapes of some of our native trees. Throughout the month the forest steadily grew and became a large hanging installation. I wanted to engage with different ages with various levels of art experience so I devised a simple project that almost anyone could participate in, making art accessible to everyone.
I wanted this to be a fun project that the community could really get involved with and which could become their own. This of course meant they could complete a tree in minutes or spend longer on it to develop it further and with little pressure to produce masterpieces they would be encouraged to return if not to drop in and spend more time making trees then for the open evening.
As the installation expanded it became visible outside the shop more people took an interest and others revisited to add to their own line of trees. As the end of my residency approached such a variety of trees filled the space, it far exceeded my expectations.
On my final night we held an opening and celebrated the community’s achievement. During the course of the evening I caused deforestation and replaced the community’s indigenous forest with my fir trees for that evening only which allowed the atending community to take their artwork home, with the rest being donated to a church for their harvest festival.