By Emily Simonitis
Trees are an integral part of our environment. Often, we don’t take time to appreciate the work trees do to keep the air clean, cool our hot temperatures, and benefit our mental health. PHS’s S(tree)twork project is a public art program that not only highlights the important role trees play in our daily lives but the project manifesto aims “to animate how we live among trees; how we perceive them; and how we imagine our future cohabitation.” Combining creativity with a deep appreciation and reverence, S(tree)twork brings trees to the forefront of the conversation surrounding urban foresting.
We last checked in on S(tree)twork after a series of Intra-Galactic Forest workshops last fall. S(tree)twork brought together a variety of musicians, artists, woodworkers, and hundreds of listeners for a series of audio workshops exploring the cosmic themes that related to trees. Here is an inside look at some of the great work the S(tree)twork team has produced since then.
Art is a powerful tool that engages people and creates strong connections with nature. Kiersten Adams, the project manager and community organizer of S(tree)twork, and Amir Campbell, the art and printing apprentice under Aaron Terry (printmaker forS(tree)twork), worked with the Trees Team to promote and explore the importance of trees through workshops at the PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk on September 19th and the PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street on September 20th. The public was invited to learn more about trees and their environment through exposure to a unique art form: leaf printing. Keren Kapoano, PHS’s Public Gardens and Landscapes Project Coordinator explains, “We had folks of all ages come out and learn more about our Tree Tenders program and how to get more involved in helping to increase Philadelphia’s tree canopy. Amir and Kiersten then lead an incredible leaf printing class using S(tree)twork’s stunning see-saw press, made of wood from fallen trees.”
Class participants learned about leaf printing and created their own unique artwork. Keren highlighted that the artwork produced from this event was a great way to facilitate new-found connections between the forest and workshop participants.
Trees Specialist Jehane Samaha commented, "We were excited to partner with Amir and Kiersten Adams. The see-saw was a great connector of people, art, and forests. It was joyful to see adults playing and laughing, connecting with the beauty of plants and making spontaneous art with friends."
S(tree)twork had the opportunity to perform at the opening of the Schuylkill River Center for Environmental Education's new exhibition: "Forest Makings." Curated by Tina Plokarz, Director of Art at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the exhibition meditates on the relationship between the forest and humans through art. Guests had the chance to have their stories involving trees recorded, explore artwork, converse with artists, and forge a deeper connection with forests and their deep meaning.
S(tree)twork explored the relationship between people and trees through music. A few highlights were drumming performances led by percussionists Rich Robinson and Karen Smith, who performed on slit drums created by Rich, artist Gladys Harlow, and woodworker and artist Don Miller. In addition to Rich’s percussion performance, he played the Kora, a West African stringed instrument.
Guests also had the opportunity to make music themselves! As Rich played traditional West African songs, Karen complemented these with her own rhythms, and guests were invited to experiment with the instruments on their own.
Activities for S(tree)twork will continue into the fall, as the team partners with Indego Bikeshare to put on a drumming performance at Philabundance on October 22nd. More workshops, public programs, and a variety of activities and events are planned in the spring to raise awareness about expanding the tree canopy in Philadelphia. Stay tuned to see what S(tree)work has planned!