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NYC Ferry’s South Brooklyn route is temporarily bypassing Governors Island through mid-February due to planned maintenance. During this time, Trust-operated ferries continue to run daily every half hour from 10 South Street in Lower Manhattan. Click here for schedules, tickets, and more info on getting to Governors Island.

NYC Ferry’s South Brooklyn route is temporarily bypassing Governors Island through mid-February due to planned maintenance. During this time, Trust-operated ferries continue to run daily every half hour from 10 South Street in Lower Manhattan. Click here for schedules, tickets, and more info on getting to Governors Island.

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.