Dylan Gauthier and Julia Oldham were selected by staff from the New York City Parks Department and the USDA Forest Service for the residency program, which got its start in June 2016 at Fort Totten Park’s Urban Field Station.
“We sent out a call for applications to a list of ecological artists. Applicants were assessed on artistic impact, fit with Urban Field Station, and proposal creativity,” said Meghan Lalor a spokeswoman for NYC Parks. “The jury included NYC Parks, USDA Forest Service staff, former artists-in-residence, and a representative from the Queens Museum.”
This year’s call for artists focused on individuals whose work focuses on environmental stewardship, which the Urban Field Station defines as “relations of care between people and nature that can take diverse forms including conservation, management, monitoring and science, education, advocacy, and transformation of the local environment.”
For his UFS Residency project, Brooklyn-based artist Gauthier proposed to explore NYC Parks’ 51 Forever Wild Sites and launch a multimedia publication series inspired by field guides. In his research, he discovered the 51 Forever Wild Sites, a group of protected forests, wetlands and meadows which span over 8,700 acres across the five boroughs.
“As many of these ‘forever wild’ sites were once something else — industrial sites, toxic sites, landfills, agricultural land — all of which show the human hand, and all such land in New York City is at risk due to climate change, how can we understand these sites in a way that shows all of these layers of understanding?” wondered Gautier.
His work was born out of a collaboration with two other artists who wanted to examine changing areas through the scope of field guides. The artist said that field guides are a “tried and true” way of identifying nature but wanted to approach the project from a more artistic standpoint by using composed and recorded sound from each of the 51 sites. Gauthier will also include printed handbooks, 360-degree videos, web-text, maps, interactive events and installation-based forms in the upcoming project.
Oldham, an Oregon-based artist, proposed a more “city-centric” approach to her project entitled ‘Undiscovered City’ in which she will interview “volunteers and stewards of NYC green spaces” in order to find out what their ideas are for a “future city that incorporates nature in novel ways.”
“These dreams don’t have to be realistic and possible,” Oldham said. “I’m interested in fantastical scenarios and science fictional advances. Using these dreams, I’m going to create conceptual plans for a futuristic New York City that will take the form of 360-degree landscapes.”
Oldham chose 360-degree landscape as her medium to make the images available to anyone with an internet connection. She said that she plans to take 360-degree photos of the city as it is in the present and overlay those images with drawings to create an “undiscovered city.”
Both artists will be conducting research, interviews and working on their projects during this yearlong residency. The venue where the works will be displayed will be decided at a later date. Works from past and present UFS artists in residence are currently on display at an art show at the Arsenal Gallery from now to Nov. 23.