‘The Open Orchard’ rare fruit art exhibit opens on Governors Island

Soon, New Yorkers will be able to taste long-lost fruit on Governors Island.

“The Open Orchard” is a new project by artist and Syracuse University sculpture professor Sam Van Anken, commissioned by the Trust for Governors Island. It was inaugurated last Friday, and takes the form of a public orchard.

The 102 trees in “The Open Orchard”, however, are not your standard fruit plants. In fact, the orchard will be home to many varieties of trees that have inhabited New York’s soil for the past 400 years, but have mostly disappeared due to climate change and the industrialization of agriculture.

Among the many factors that determine whether a fruit variety should be grown or not are its durability during shipping, ease of cultivation, and visual appeal, such as Bridle stitches. The Golden Russet, for example, was once one of the most common apples in New York, but its popularity has waned over time due to its rougher skin.

Artist Van Aken disagrees with how these business decisions affect heritage fruits. “For me, they’re the tastiest apples and they have the best texture,” he told Curbed. “People need to taste these fruits because they’re so different from anything we get in grocery stores and, to some extent, even farmers’ markets.”

To bring his project to life, Van Aken used a grafting technique, combining several varieties of fruit into a single tree. This way, different varieties grow next to each other, resulting in an impressionistic-looking tree that features white, crimson, and pink flowers.

These trees also serve a huge environmental purpose. Simply by existing, they preserve dozens of fruit varieties that are now considered rare – such as certain types of almonds, apples, apricots, and peaches, among others – and they do so in a safe environment from which they can be monitored and cared for. In the face of climate change, “The Open Orchard” is an innovative project that can shed light on future techniques for maintaining and preserving biodiversity. An additional 100 trees, which have been cared for in the park, will be transplanted to community gardens in the five boroughs.

“‘The open orchard’ on Governors Island, and the vast orchard that takes place across the city in community gardens in all five boroughs, would not have been possible without the time, energy and generosity of so many people invested in art, biodiversity and revisiting this forgotten history of New York,” artist Sam Van Aken said in an official statement.. “After eight years of development and five years of project development on Governors Island, I remain indebted to all involved and honored to find a place and a community with a shared vision to reimagine not just agriculture, but culture. which surrounds it.”

“The Open Orchard” marks the first artwork commissioned through the Trust for Governors Island’s cultural program, dubbed Governors Island Arts. In a combined effort with New York City, the Trust will announce new projects and art commissions over the coming months, and launch a new campaign and advisory committee to support the new program.

“Sam Van Aken’s vital work transforms preconceptions of what public art can be, preserves our region’s ecological history, and enables New Yorkers in all five boroughs to enjoy a beautiful public orchard in the heart of the New York Harbor,” Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island, said in a statement. “The island is a great place to explore issues of environmental conservation and the felt impacts of climate change through art and public engagement. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the island to experience this ambitious work in person.

Visitors can now access Governors Island and visit “The Open Orchard,” which will welcome guests with a series of workshops, talks and performances, as well as fruit tastings and cooking lessons, and more to be announced in the next months.

Governor Island is open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is accessible by ferry. For more information, you can visit the Governors Island website.

Check out some great photos of the orchard below:


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Reggie S. Williams