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Indoor spaces offering public programs & galleries on Governors Island require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with the Key to NYC Executive Order. Click here to review all health & safety protocols prior to your visit.

Indoor spaces offering public programs & galleries on Governors Island require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with the Key to NYC Executive Order. Click here to review all health & safety protocols prior to your visit.

Com­bin­ing pub­lic art and envi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion, The Open Orchard will be an expan­sive new art­work by Sam Van Aken that takes the form of an orchard on Gov­er­nors Island. Each indi­vid­ual tree will con­tain mul­ti­ple vari­eties of peach­es, plums, apri­cots, nec­tarines, cher­ries and apples that were his­tor­i­cal­ly grown in the New York City region over the past 500 years but which have been lost to cli­mate change and the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of agriculture.

The Open Orchard brings these native and heir­loom vari­eties back as liv­ing trees and shares them with the pub­lic, giv­ing every­one a chance to see and taste fruits that, in some cas­es, haven’t been avail­able for cen­turies. At the same time, the orchard will serve as a liv­ing gene bank, safe­guard­ing bio­di­ver­si­ty for future generations.

To cre­ate the orchard, Van Aken is using an ancient process called graft­ing” to com­bine branch­es from dif­fer­ent species onto a sin­gle tree. Since the seed of a fruit tree is a genet­ic vari­ant rather than an exact copy, graft­ing is the only way to pre­serve a spe­cif­ic species for the future, and this process will allow the orchard to pre­serve hun­dreds of unique varieties.

These hybrid trees are cur­rent­ly grow­ing in a nurs­ery on Gov­er­nors Island, where some will be plant­ed as a per­ma­nent orchard on the Island. The remain­ing trees will be dis­trib­uted to com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens in all five bor­oughs, allow­ing even more com­mu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in the art­work as it puts down roots across the city. Free pub­lic pro­gram­ming, includ­ing graft­ing work­shops and fruit tast­ings, will begin in 2020. The Open Orchard is expect­ed to be plant­ed some­time in 2022.

Stay tuned for updates and more infor­ma­tion on this project, and see record­ings of vir­tu­al work­shops led by Van Aken on top­ics relat­ed to The Open Orchard.

Inter­est­ed in help­ing The Open Orchard grow? To sup­port this project or make a dona­tion, email commissions@​govisland.​org.