Resilience thrives on urban farming in Minneapolis

Alex V. Sipol
In a North Minneapolis community garden, a monarch rests against a backdrop of plants and rocks.

On a recent summer afternoon, a Monarch butterfly sits on an orange zinnia in North Minneapolis. The monarch – now an endangered species – is joined by crickets, bumble bees and other pollinators, vines heavy with grape tomatoes, sticky tomatoes, towering sunflowers, towers of Brussels sprouts and medicinal herbs. At the center of these beds are black obsidian rocks. Each end of the garden is bookended by gleaming chrome rain basins in the shape of a bent basketball hoop. Like funhouse mirrors, these basins reflect back the bounty they are helping to feed. Step back and look at the parts of the garden as a whole, and the sum takes the shape of a basketball court.

One of two abstract basketball hoop shaped rain basins
Alex V. Sipol
One of two abstract basketball hoop shaped rain basins
Courtesy Jordan Weber
“Poetry and Speech Parable (Deep Root)” landscape and garden created by artist Jordan Weber and the Minneapolis non-profit Youth Farm.

The three-hectare garden, which opened a year ago, is a project called “Prototype for Poetry vs Rhetoric (Deep Root)”. For his residency with the Walker Art Center since 2018, he is a community landscape collaboration that teaches children and teens about food sovereignty. In the year A 2022 United States Artists Fellow, and this fall, he will launch what he describes as his first environmental exhibition at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Books Library, a collaboration with the Yale Black Student Alliance and the Yale Native American Cultural Center.

The impact of a place on a particular community is huge.

A “poetic and rhetorical (deep-rooted) example,” he says, is a minimalist garden, with plants chosen to prevent environmental pollution, especially from a shingle factory and nearby scrap metal yard.

Alex V. Sipol

Weber is now based in New York, but he’s from Des Moines, Iowa, and Weber traveled to Minneapolis to work closely with the community to create a healing project in a city struggling with the police killing of George Floyd and its aftermath. A process that continues following the pandemic.

“It almost made this a more heart-based project,” Weber said.

Artist Jordan Weber, left, works with youth farm members and the community.
Courtesy Jordan Weber
Artist Jordan Weber, left, works with youth farm members and the community.
Courtesy Jordan Weber

There were many site visits to see how the industry is affecting society more and how we can effectively deal with it through a community art project.

Marcus Carr, director of programs for the youth farm in North Minneapolis, said the project has given youth farm children and teenagers, as well as the community at large, a safe place to express their anger and grief during the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. .

“It’s to let them know, ‘You’re not alone,'” says Carr. “This project was a big part of that. It gave us a home to go to; a very unique and healing process in one of the worst times the city has ever seen.”

Weber has long been active in gallery spaces, neighborhoods, landscapes, and the built environment, engaging with pressing issues such as the climate crisis, systemic racism, police brutality, and community health and healing. It is inspired by landscape architect and urbanist Kongjian Yu and large-scale local artists such as Seitu Jones (who hails from North Minneapolis) and Mel Chin.

“He was the first artist to use phytoremediation as an art method to reduce toxins from the soil,” Weber said of Chin.

Weber
Courtesy Jordan Weber
Weber’s “American Dreamers Level 2” (2015)

One of Weber’s first collaborative art projects to garner attention was “LV Trap House” (2014), where he painted Louis Vuitton logos on what he called a “crack house” in Des Moines. Then there was “American Dreamers Step 2” (2015), in which, after the murder of Michael Brown, Weber planted a garden in an abandoned Ferguson, Mo., police car. Weber’s work on regenerative landscape and environmental focus grew out of the “4MX Greenhouse” in Omaha, Neb., an ongoing project, a greenhouse featuring permanent programmable sculptural artwork in the shape of Malcolm X’s original home. In the year In 2018, Weber and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation established a greenhouse to grow native crops.

“Even in art and in institutions, in social practice or in this direct act of art – and now we see it in landscape architecture and architecture in general – it is first of all a community approach. After all, how do you build a project from the ground up that is very engaging with the community you are building the relationship with?” says Weber. The community especially needs a greenhouse at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.

The one in Omaha
Courtesy Jordan Weber
The “4MX Greenhouse” in Omaha

In the year With a 2021 Creative Capital grant, Weber is now partnering with members of the Ponca tribe and members of the Midwest Osage Nation to develop the Three Sisters Garden — with symbiotic crops of squash, corn and beans — on 17 acres of grassland around the structure.

The artist took a similar approach with the “Poetry Prototype vs. Rhetoric (Deep Root)” garden in Minneapolis. After dozens and dozens of community meetings with community stakeholders and consultants, a team made up of Youth Farm and the Walker Art Center, artist and film director Missy Whiteman, environmental justice activist Roxxon O’Brien and local firm Awn Fernandez Landscape Architects.

“There were a lot of site visits to see where the industry was affecting the community the most and how we could effectively deal with it through a community art project,” Weber says. And the shape of the basketball court?

Courtesy Jordan Weber

“I’m a former comedian and I embraced my identity as a young black teenager in the Midwest by being biracial and being really good at basketball,” Weber says. “And in basketball in the Midwest, especially in Iowa, as a biracial kid, it’s about acceptance with the black community. So, with landscape architecture and building and community activism, I know we have to do it. You can’t approach urban parks to build something that appeals to the young black community.” [The spaces] They should be visually stunning in the way you want to approach it.

The garden, located on the site leased by Youth Farm, has become a former vacant lot soil filter, and on-site river rock filters gas and chemical runoff from the road. City farmer Carr says the garden is a shining spot for locals to “take a load off”. He pointed out that the area has only two grocery stores and many people in the neighborhood do not own cars.

Alex V. Sipol

“[Residents can] If you want onions or eggplants and tomatoes, stop and grab their produce. All trees and shrubs have edible fruits and berries. The goal was just to find a place where people could stop and engage,” says Carr. “The impact of that place on that particular community is huge.”

And not only did the youth farm boy and teen members help build and grow the garden, but two teens from the organization were hired as current managers, Carr said. They led group activities, such as making lip balms using garden plants and hosting cookouts in the garden.

“Anything that’s wrong in our society, you can find a solution in nature,” says Carr.

Alex V. Sipol

Black Obsidian is a material that Weber frequently employs in projects across the country. In addition to the rocks that sit in the center of Minneapolis, there are two more at the base of each storm basin. They contain brass plaques that say “Breathe” and “Breathe”.

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

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