It’s a picture of a tree. Yes. Okay. But this tree has a phone number. If you call this tree it will tell you stories of the neighborhood. It will talk about the Bronx Grand Concourse, about itself, even about the local ecology. It will tell stories about the neighborhood. It might even sound proud, after all it has been around a while. Starting June 21st and continuing through the summer, the trees along the Grand Concourse will play host to a virtual Tree Museum. Visitors can call a phone number and get the details on any particular tree by punching in its extension. The audio guides are recollections and fond stories from folks who have grown up with the trees. Each tree has its own story.
Artist Katie Holten, commissioned for a project to celebrate the centennial of the Concourse, describes her process for creating the Tree Museum:
In November 2007, I was walking the Concourse almost every day, trying to get a feel for the street and understand how to engage with the place. At 174th Street, where the Concourse crosses over the Cross Bronx Expressway, I suddenly pictured the place as it might have been 100 years ago. So different: no buildings, no sidewalks, no asphalt, and no cars. But there were trees originally—it was built as a tree-lined boulevard for promenading. I saw the trees as a starting point for examining the entire ecosystem.
Holten is now an expert on the Concourse arboreal ecology: the tree museum includes a map of the locations and names of some 100 trees, which together cover some 60 species. These include American Elm, Kwanzan Cherry, Crab Apple, Gingko and White Pine. Events in the tree museum over the summer include haiku walks, drawing workshops, satellite exhibitions and a green roof tour. The museum’s website also includes it’s own social network, where users can create profiles and share their own photos and stories about the trees.
The museum will open with a parade led by group BombaYo from The Bronx Museum of the Arts through Joyce Kilmer Park to the Andrew Freedman Home for a garden party. The project was organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts and Wave Hill with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.