Artist Jordan Weber partners with local youth-development organization Youth Farm to transform a vacant lot into a new public artwork in the form of an urban farm for the community. Designed for use by the local residents, the farm will grow fresh produce and pollution-mitigating plants; vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs will be available for free; and a community gathering table will create a space for reflection, meditation, and respite.
Weber, who is based in Des Moines, Iowa, has been an artist-in-residence with the Walker’s Education department for the past two years. During that time, he has met with environmental justice activists, nonprofit representatives, youth workers, academics, and city employees to research ways that government policies and urban planning have led to heavy pollution in primarily Black neighborhoods.
In response to this research, the artist collaborated with the organization Youth Farm to create Prototype for poetry vs rhetoric (deep roots) (2021). The combined rain garden and urban farm will be located in a former vacant lot at Lyndale Avenue North between 23rd and 24th Streets. The work incorporates four pillars of community health commonly addressed by Weber in his practice: self-empowerment and determination; soil and air cleansing; spiritual reflection and meditation; and medicinal and food supply.
The public artwork also emphasizes several issues that affect the lives of people of color and their communities. The garden is laid out according to the lines of a basketball court and features two sculptural rain catchers that resemble basketball hoops. This references the impact of structural conditions inflicted on the Black body by the “athletic industrial complex,” a term that describes how US sports are intertwined with capitalism at the expense of players’ health and well-being. In addition, the work is a symbolic response to the intersecting issues of environmental degradation, food scarcity, and lack of public amenities that affect communities of color across the Midwest.
The artwork is realized in collaboration with Marcus Kar, Youth Farm’s director of North Minneapolis programs. Lease of the site is held by Youth Farm, and following the Opening-Day Celebration, scheduled for July 2021, the farm will be turned over to Kar and Youth Farm for incorporation into their community capacity building programs. Youth Farm is a nonprofit organization that utilizes food and farming as a catalyst for social change, community engagement, and leadership development. During the growing season, the organization offers programs that help educate and train young people across Minneapolis in gardens and greenhouses. They also teach leadership skills year-round with programming focused on planting, cultivating, and distributing the food they grow.
You can see Jordan Weber, Walker staff, Youth Farm participants, and landscape architects Aune Fernandez working on the site this spring, completing initial groundwork that started last year.
More information on events and how to participate can be found on the project Facebook page.
An opening celebration is scheduled for 2021. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be notified of this event.
Using utilitarian materials, Jordan Weber produces sculptural social objects and spaces that speak to ways in which racially oppressed peoples are restricted physically, geographically, and socially. Adapting to the architectural spaces they inhabit, his works attempt to create inclusive environments where visitors might test or practice forms of sustainable urbanism. These public works are often modified to specifically fit their environments—whether an arts center, private home, museum, or public space. “I always want to expose elements within the work that are relatable to people in my community,” says Weber. “I like to have these ‘openings’ within the work—those elements people can relate to—so they can feed into the psychology of the work.” The artist’s work has been exhibited at White Box, New York; the Union for Contemporary Art, Omaha; the Des Moines Art Center; the Soap Factory, Minneapolis; Smack Mellon, New York; Manifest:Justice and Gallery 38, Los Angeles; Charlotte Street Foundation and 50/50, Kansas City, Missouri; Open Engagement, Chicago; and Truth to Power, Philadelphia.