Resilience thrives on an urban Minneapolis farm

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Alex V. Cipolle
In a community garden in north Minneapolis, a monarch butterfly rests against a backdrop of crops and obsidian rocks.

On a recent late summer afternoon, a monarch butterfly sits on an orange zinnia in North Minneapolis. The monarch-now an endangered species– is joined by crickets, bumblebees and other pollinators, vines laden with grape tomatoes, sticky tomatillos, towering sunflowers, towers of Brussels sprouts and medicinal herbs arranged in attractive wooden raised beds. In the center of these beds is a collection of black obsidian boulders. Each end of the garden court ends with shiny chrome rain basins in the shape of curved basketball hoops. Like playful mirrors, these watersheds reflect in whirlwinds the wealth they help nurture. Step back and observe the parts of the garden as a whole, and its sum takes the shape of a basketball court.

One of two abstract rain catchments in the shape of a basketball hoop
Alex V. Cipolle
One of two abstract rain catchments in the shape of a basketball hoop
The “Prototype for Poetry Against Rhetoric (Deep Roots)” landscape installation and garden created by artist Jordan Weber and the nonprofit Youth Farm of Minneapolis.
courtesy of Jordan Weber
The landscape installation and garden “Prototype of Poetry vs. Rhetoric (Deep Roots)” created by artist Jordan Weber and the nonprofit Youth Farm of Minneapolis.

The thriving three-acre garden, which had its grand opening a year ago, is a project called “Prototype for Poetry vs. Rhetoric (Deep Roots).” This is a community landscape collaboration between local non-profit organizations youth farmwho teaches children and teens about food sovereignty, and artist and regenerative earth activist Jordan Weber for a residency he did with the Walker Art Center from 2018. Weber is a Harvard GSD Loeb Scholar 2022a 2022 American Artists Fellowand this fall, he will begin what he describes as the first Environmental Humanities Artist-in-Residence at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book Library, where he will research and pitch a potential public land project with the Yale Black Student. Alliance and Yale Native American Cultural Center.

The impact of this space on this particular community is enormous.

“Prototype for Poetry vs. Rhetoric (Deep Roots)” is an attenuating garden, he says, with plants chosen to counter neighborhood pollution, including from a nearby shingle factory and scrap yard.

Alex V. Cipolle

Weber is now based in New York, but is from Des Moines, Iowa, and Weber is reportedly traveling to Minneapolis to work closely with the community to create a healing project in a city that is still grappling with murder by the police of George Floyd and its consequences. : a process that continued throughout the pandemic.

“It almost made it a more hyper-focused project, on what it means to build resilient landscapes, and those architectural landscapes and the arts together,” Weber says, “because one of the most important things we found with healing for ourselves as a team, was to put our hands in the ground together, and with community members, we yearned to help.Weber recalls protesters even arriving at the site from the street and began to help cultivate the plot.

Artist Jordan Weber, left, works with Youth Farm members and the community.
courtesy of Jordan Weber
Artist Jordan Weber, left, works with Youth Farm members and the community.
courtesy of Jordan Weber

It took a lot of site visits to see which industry was hurting the community the most and how we could most effectively counter it with a community art project.

Marcus Kar, North Minneapolis programs director for Youth Farm, said the project provides Youth Farm children and teens, as well as the community at large, with a safe space to express anger and sadness during the uprising following the murder of George Floyd. .

“It was about letting them know, ‘You’re not alone,'” Kar explains. “This project was a big part of that. It gave us a home to go to; a very unique and healing process during some of the worst times the city has ever seen.

Weber has long activated gallery spaces, neighborhoods, landscapes and the built environment through art that addresses pressing issues such as the climate crisis, systemic racism, police brutality, community health and healing. . It was inspired by landscape architect and urban planner Kongjian Yu and large-scale environmental artists like Seitu Jones (who is from North Minneapolis) and Mel Chin.

“He is the first artist to use plants to mitigate soil toxins, phytoremediation as an art form,” Weber says of Chin.

courtesy of Jordan Weber
Weber’s “American Dreamers Phase 2” (2015)

One of Weber’s first built environment art projects to gain attention was “Trap House LV” (2014), where he painted Louis Vuitton logos on what he calls a “crack house” in Des Moines. Then there was “American Dreamers Phase 2” (2015) in which, after the murder of Michael Brown, Weber planted a garden inside a disused police cruiser in Ferguson, Missouri. The regenerative landscape and environmental focus of Weber’s work has grown with “Greenhouse 4MXin Omaha, Neb., an ongoing project that features a greenhouse as a permanent, programmable sculptural work of art that takes the form of Malcolm X’s first home. In 2018, Weber and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation erected the greenhousewho cultivates indigenous crops.

“In arts and institutions too, with social practice or this direct action aspect of art – and now we see it in landscape architecture and architecture in general – it is the community approach first of all. So how do you build a project from the ground up that’s extremely inclusive with the community you’re building the relationship with? says Weber. “The community, especially at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, wanted a greenhouse.”

The
courtesy of Jordan Weber
The “4MX greenhouse” in Omaha

With a 2021 Creative Capital grant, Weber is now collaborating with members of the Ponca Tribe and Osage Nation of the Midwest to cultivate a Three Sisters Garden – planted with symbiotic crops of squash, corn and beans – on the 17 acres of native grasslands around the structure.

The artist took the same approach with the Prototype of Poetry vs. Rhetoric (Deep Roots) garden in Minneapolis. After dozens and dozens of community meetings with community stakeholders and consultants, including a team from Youth Farm and the Walker Art Center, artist and director Missy Whiteman, environmental justice activist Roxxanne O’Brienand local firm Aune Fernandez Landscape Architects.

“It took a lot of site visits to see which industry was hurting the community the most and how we could most effectively counter it with a community art project,” says Weber. And the shape of the basketball court?

courtesy of Jordan Weber

“I’m a former sportsman and my whole identity is about being biracial in the Midwest and being accepted as a young black teenager by being really, really good at basketball,” Weber said. “And what comes with being really, really good at basketball in the Midwest, especially in Iowa, as a biracial kid, is acceptance with your black community. So, I know that with landscape architecture and with community architecture and activations, we need to build things that appeal to the community of young black teens who wouldn’t otherwise approach urban gardens. [The spaces] should be visually arresting in a way that they want to approach.

The garden, on a site leased by Youth Farm, has become a filter for the soil on what was previously wasteland, and the river rock used on the site filters gases and chemicals from street runoff. Kar, an urban farmer, says the garden is a reflective space where local residents can “chill out.” He points out that the area has only two grocery stores and that many residents of the neighborhood do not own a car.

Alex V. Cipolle

“[Residents can] stop and grab their produce if they need onions or eggplant and tomatoes. All trees and shrubs are all edible berries and fruits. The goal was just to have a place where people can just stop and graze,” says Kar. “The impact of this space on this particular community is enormous.”

And not only did children and teenage members of Youth Farm help build and cultivate the garden, but two teenagers from the organization’s neighborhood were hired as current stewards, Kar says. They carried out group activities, such as making lip balms using ingredients from the garden and organizing barbecues with the bounty of the garden.

“Whatever is wrong with our society, you can find solutions in nature,” says Kar.

Alex V. Cipolle

Black obsidian is a material Weber often uses in his projects around the country. In addition to the boulders that sit in the center of the Minneapolis Garden, two more can be found under each rain catchment. They feature bronze plaques that say “inhale” and “exhale”.

“I love the historical context of obsidian as a tool, as a tool for self-resilience,” says Weber.

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