Slanguage Teen Arts Council (STAC) welcomed Katie Bachler in collaboration with resident artist Tony Lopez for an exciting new green residency called: Radical Gardening. Here is a bit more about Katie Bachler and this exciting project already in the works.
The Radical Gardening project is very exciting, especially in Wilmington! As you may have noticed Wilmington is considered a port-industrial town, how will the “green side” of Wilmington be exhibited with this project?
There is nature everywhere in Wilmington! In the plants growing through the cracks, the plethora of California Fan Palms… The city is nature, we just don’t look at it that way. We spend our days and night on the surface of the city, in the idea of the city. A main goal of this project is the re-learning the process of looking at and knowing a place. Many of our adventures have just been in the immediate vicinity of Slanguage, sketching the plants in the cracks, collecting rubbings of the bark of the trees nearby, talking to the neighbor Rogelio about his guayaba trees and nopales. By simply renaming an small plot of land outside of a food store a park, we change the frame of nature in the city. The space is activated. We encourage passers-by to notice the local flora, to slow down. With the green map we are creating, a new side of Wilmington will be made public.
Slanguage neighbor Rogelio talking about his garden
The plants and greenery in Wilmington often seem unappreciated or taken for granted at least; what can we learn from the greenery that we do have? Was there anything interesting you’ve noticed regarding species of plants or natural green spaces in Wilmington?
There is this amazing little marsh by Ghost town that Tony showed me while we were riding bikes. There are many places to peep the salt-marsh biome, the native fan palm is everywhere too! We can re-think our relationship to nature and slow down a bit, spend time contemplating the bottle-brush trees, the tumbleweeds… Ecosystems exist even in the empty lots, we can see birds in the black mustard and marsh grasses.
How will you and Tony be working in collaboration?
We are planning the projects together. He knows all about the wonders of Wilmington, and its amazing to see what actual sites around Wilmington connect to our conversations about Nature/Human interventions. There are all these super amazing spots, like the palm trees with happy faces painted on them, or topiaries of strange bears by this taco shop, where nature and people connect. Tony and I have similar interests in the intersections of nature and the city; he turns some of my thoughts into actual locations around town. Tony is a skilled builder, so he is teaching me about the table saw etc, and we will build together!
The triangle park has been something that Mario and Slanguage have been trying to bring to life for a long time. It is an honor that the Radical Gardening Project will get that chance to make a change. How do you feel about working with a space that the city supposedly overseas but has done nothing with?
I love it! This little park is a rupture in the institutional fabric of the city, an in-between-space, somewhere seemingly forgotten. This is where interesting things happen, it has the possibility of becoming a space that actually reflects the needs of the community. When the space is used by people in the neighborhood, it becomes an impromptu public space, defined by the activities that take place there. The possibilities for this park are expansive because of its over-looked status. It can actually reflect the needs of its stake-holders, we can focus on the community surrounding the space, be super Wilmington specific, think about people who walk by the triangle everyday. It is a people’s park.
What will the park look like in the end?
We will add plants and benches and a horse shoe court, a suggestion of a local neighbor who is also an artist! It will reflect the desires of the community. We just had this new idea of creating a cancer memorial in the center of the park because we keep hearing about people who have died of cancer in Wilmington and there is no public memorial in the city. We will create small planters with the names of people who have died, and a space for the public to plant seeds in their memory.
I see you are incorporating green thinking with community and art. Why do you think it is important to involve other members of the community with this project?
Change does not happen unless people feel a sense of agency, connection to what is being made in their community. Its the difference between grassroots political organizing and mainstream politics. People will only participate if they feel like they have something at stake. We want people to use the park, we want it to be their park, so it is super important that we talk to people. Also, i am not from here, so I need to learn about people and a place before I can help think of ideas for improvement. Things take time, the building of relationships in this community are just as much a part of the project as the park itself. The park is the people, a manifestation of multiple needs. Making a map too, that reflects what is important to the residents of Wilmington, will create a sense of empowerment and connection to this neighborhood.
STAC teens painting on a birdbath
Have you done similar projects in the past? In what cities have you worked in doing so?
I have; these types of projects are my favorite! I worked with Marjetica Potrc on two projects involving people and plants. One was in Amsterdam, in a suburb. We created a community garden in an area of social housing that came to be completely run and operated by the residents. The residents cooked food from the garden in a community kitchen and held events that they designed. It was a project about creating a social engine, a catalyst for creating community. Last May, I worked on a project with Marjetica in Aubervilliers, just outside of Paris France. The neighborhood is the most diverse in europe, so we collected seeds and plants from people from all over the world and connected over the idea of the garden. We planted these plants in large red bags at an art center. I am interested in being an artist-facilitator, working with people and ideas that already exist in a place, figuring out ways to make the invisible visible. I was part of a residency in Vermont this summer where we collected hand-drawn maps of peoples favorite places in a small town called Putney, then I combined all of the places on the maps on a map that I drew, a giant one that is now on display at the food co-op, the central community place in the town. People love to look and talk about what they added to this work. Map makes a place for people to bond and converse!
Is there any future projects you will be working on?
Yes, always. I will keep teaching and really want to start a school with friend and collaborator teacher Sarah Dougherty. I am also working on a project called the Workers Rug. Collaborator Jade Thacker and I are creating a rag rug with members of IDEPSCA, an organization that works with members of low-income communities concerned with solving problems in their own communities. We are working specifically with day laborers and domestic workers to collect stories about work, about invisible labor. Each piece of clothing we collect will connect to a story about work, which we will pin onto the Worker’s Rug. We hope to display the rug at the offices of local politicians.
STAC teen creating a garden box
The project ends around December 21, 2011 but keep posted to the STAC Face Book page for the progression of the project and finale at triangle park.
Artist: Katie Bachler, USC, MA in Art in the Public Realm
STAC, Slanguage Teen Arts Council is a leadership group gaining skills through art!
- working with an arts organization and gaining marketing and production skills
- meet with other working artists, and arts institutions
- developing programming including events and exhibits, and community art projects for your own peers and community.