Mon­u­men­tal Liv­ing Art­work The Open Orchard” by Sam Van Aken Opens April 29


Fruit from Van Aken's previous Tree of 40 Fruit project

The Trust for Gov­er­nors Island announced today the open­ing of a new com­mis­sioned art­work by mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary artist Sam Van Aken with­in Gov­er­nors Island’s award-win­ning park. Tak­ing the form of a pub­lic orchard com­pris­ing 102 fruit trees, The Open Orchard will act as a liv­ing archive for antique and heir­loom fruit vari­eties that were grown in and around New York City in the past 400 years but have most­ly dis­ap­peared due to cli­mate change and the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of agri­cul­ture. The Open Orchard will open to the pub­lic on Arbor Day, April 292022

The fruit vari­eties present in The Open Orchard all are indige­nous to, orig­i­nat­ed in or have been his­tor­i­cal­ly grown in New York City. Using a unique graft­ing process, Van Aken com­bines mul­ti­ple fruit vari­eties into a sin­gle tree — so dif­fer­ent vari­eties grow along­side one anoth­er and the trees blos­som in a rain­bow of white, pink, and crim­son. Beyond their aes­thet­ic appeal, these hybrid trees under­take the crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant work of pre­serv­ing dozens of rare fruit vari­eties in a safe envi­ron­ment, pro­vid­ing a road map for inno­v­a­tive tech­niques to main­tain vital bio­di­ver­si­ty in the face of a chang­ing climate. 

Arts and cul­ture are essen­tial to the well-being and vital­i­ty of New York City, and May­or Adams’ eco­nom­ic recov­ery blue­print reflects that,” said Deputy May­or for Eco­nom­ic and Work­force Devel­op­ment Maria Tor­res-Springer. As our city con­tin­ues its recov­ery, Gov­er­nors Island will play a major role in sup­port­ing artists, arts orga­ni­za­tions, and audi­ences in deliv­er­ing acces­si­ble cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences. I encour­age all New York­ers to expe­ri­ence this new art­work and explore all that Gov­er­nors Island has to offer.” 

Sam Van Aken’s vital work trans­forms pre­con­ceived notions about what pub­lic art can be, pre­serves the eco­log­i­cal his­to­ry of our region, and allows New York­ers from all five bor­oughs to enjoy a beau­ti­ful pub­lic orchard in the heart of New York har­bor,” said Clare New­man, Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. The Island is an ide­al loca­tion to explore issues of envi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion and the felt impacts of cli­mate change through art and pub­lic engage­ment. We can­not wait to wel­come Island vis­i­tors to expe­ri­ence this ambi­tious work in person.” 

Sam Van Aken’s The Open Orchard is a once in a life­time project that could only exist in the mag­i­cal land­scape that is Gov­er­nors Island,” said Mered­ith John­son, Vice Pres­i­dent of Arts & Cul­ture and Head Cura­tor at the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. It is a gift to work with such a vision­ary artist whose work is a com­bi­na­tion of sculp­ture, archive and pub­lic space, pro­vid­ing New York­ers the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to phys­i­cal­ly time trav­el by see­ing, touch­ing, and tast­ing his­to­ry while also reflect­ing on our col­lec­tive future.” 

The Open Orchard on Gov­er­nors Island, and the expan­sive orchard tak­ing place across the entire city in com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens in all five bor­oughs, wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble with­out the time, ener­gy, and gen­eros­i­ty of so many invest­ed in art, bio­di­ver­si­ty and revis­it­ing this for­got­ten his­to­ry of New York,” said artist Sam Van Aken. After eight years in devel­op­ment and five years of the project grow­ing at Gov­er­nors Island, I remain indebt­ed to all those involved and hum­bled to find a place and com­mu­ni­ty with the shared vision of rethink­ing not just agri­cul­ture but the cul­ture that sur­rounds it.”

Near­ly 100 addi­tion­al trees that have been cul­ti­vat­ed and cared for in a nurs­ery on Gov­er­nors Island since 2018 will be donat­ed and plant­ed in com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens through­out the five bor­oughs in part­ner­ship with NYC Parks Green­Thumb.

We are grate­ful to the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island and the tal­ent­ed Sam Van Aken for the cul­ti­va­tion and dona­tion of these his­toric her­itage fruit trees to our Green­Thumb com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens,” said NYC Parks Com­mis­sion­er Sue Donoghue. With the addi­tion of these trees, and the care of our ded­i­cat­ed vol­un­teer com­mu­ni­ty gar­den­ers, our gar­dens will diver­si­fy their hor­ti­cul­ture adding resilien­cy to the green­spaces and con­tribute to the rich arbo­re­al his­to­ry and lega­cy of our city.”

Inspired by Van Aken’s ear­li­er project Tree of 40 Fruit, which includ­ed sin­gle trees graft­ed to con­tain up to 40 dif­fer­ent vari­eties of fruit, The Open Orchard builds upon the artist’s long­time dream of an expan­sive orchard of trees con­tain­ing hun­dreds of fruit vari­eties locat­ed in the heart of New York City. Fruit trees can­not be saved in seed banks and must be grown as liv­ing trees to be pre­served, so Van Aken planned and cre­at­ed his dream orchard that would pre­serve these fruits for future gen­er­a­tions while allow­ing con­tem­po­rary audi­ences to expe­ri­ence fruits that have not been avail­able to the pub­lic for centuries. 

The Open Orchard is the first com­mis­sioned art­work announced under the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island’s expand­ed cul­tur­al pro­gram, Gov­er­nors Island Arts. Over the next sev­er­al months, the City and the Trust will announce addi­tion­al art com­mis­sions and pub­lic pro­grams and launch a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign and advi­so­ry com­mit­tee ded­i­cat­ed to sup­port­ing Gov­er­nors Island Arts.

Once open, The Open Orchard will invite vis­i­tors to Gov­er­nors Island to expe­ri­ence a range of pub­lic pro­grams includ­ing a con­tin­ued work­shop series, talks and per­for­mances, fruit tast­ings, har­vest events, culi­nary lessons, and more. Addi­tion­al pro­grams will be announced in com­ing months. The Open Orchard, com­mis­sioned through Gov­er­nors Island Arts, is co-curat­ed by Mered­ith John­son, Vice Pres­i­dent for Arts and Cul­ture and Head Cura­tor at the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island, and Shane Bren­nan, for­mer Direc­tor of Pub­lic Programs. 

The Open Orchard by Sam Van Aken is made pos­si­ble through gen­er­ous con­tri­bu­tions made by The Gottes­man Fund, Lily Auch­in­closs Foun­da­tion, the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts, Sleepy Cat Farm Foun­da­tion, and Dorothea L. Leon­hardt Foun­da­tion. We are also grate­ful to Brightview for their in-kind land­scape support.

Gov­er­nors Island Arts presents its pro­gram with the vision­ary sup­port of the Ford Foun­da­tion, as well the Cha­ri­na Endow­ment Fund, Don­ald R. Mullen Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion, Bloomberg Phil­an­thropies, The Gottes­man Fund, Don­ald A. Pels Char­i­ta­ble Trust, the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts, and the New York State Coun­cil on the Arts.