Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Positive Feedback for Blue Parkway

From the Commercial Appeal's letters to the editor:

It's the river. Get it?

A few people have noticed a change in Midtown -- hundreds of trees on the parkways wrapped in blue bands. This temporary public art project by Tad Lauritzen Wright, part of the UrbanArt Commission's 10th anniversary celebration, is intended to make people see the environment in a new way.

It is unfortunate that a few people jumped to conclusions without stopping to take a closer look at the work. Assuming the city was planning to remove the trees, one parkway resident started removing the blue bands. On South Parkway, Tad and his volunteer installation team were threatened and told to go back to Germantown. The artist and most of his team live in Midtown. Tad even spent the last few years living on North Parkway, a fact that helped inspire this project.

It does not take a lot of thought to figure out that the blue represents the river and that the artist wanted to bring the river into the city. Unless we live or work Downtown, we often forget that the river is there. But it is the reason all of us are here, regardless of where we live in the tri-state region.

The work also speaks to another key element that defines our city -- trees. The blue line highlights how many trees there are along the Parkways. I am glad someone cares enough about the trees to take action should they be threatened. But as a city of trees we are doing far too little to ensure that we have a healthy green canopy 20 years from now.

Many of our trees are at the end of their life cycles. If we don't take care of our existing trees and replace those that have died, we will lose a key part of what makes Memphis such a special place.

Carissa Hussong



treehugger said...

I agree that we should be doing more to protect our trees and ensure that we have a healthy tree filled city 20 years from now but I think as artists surely we can do more to inspire and educate than wrapping the trees in blue plastic. What happens to that plastic after it comes off the trees?
Just because it isn't hurting the trees doesn't mean it is environmentally friendly. Couldn't Mr. Wright have re-used some blue material? Like how about all those little newspaper bags? Or found some other actual river color (brown) natural material that would break down quickly. Now that it has been created however I think it should be put to some use after being taken off the trees rather than just making trash. I feel like a poorly thought out project like this gives urban art a bad rap (pun intended}.

Anonymous said...

I did not get the reference to the river at all, and noone I know and talked to about it did either. I walk across Parkway everyday and am starting to notice pieces of blue plastic with houses scrawled on them littering nearby neighborhood streets. Is the artist going to clean up the mess his work made? Or is it supposed to bring attention to the mad trash in the streets that eventually makes its way to the various rivers around here? I think the point of the project is great, but poorly executed and poorly explained. That being said, I do hope public art in Memphis increases...

UrbanArt said...

I think this artwork was more about making your day a little different than educating the public about the trees. I admit that it came at an awkward time, right after the zoo cut trees from the old growth forest, but that was just an unfortunate coincidence. This project does seem to have done its job of interrupting (the title of the 10th Anniversary Project is “Interactions/Interruptions”).

In the article in the Commercial Appeal, we do admit that more information could have been given out before the project, though I am not sure if that would have reached the individuals who felt the most strongly the day that it was installed. I’m not sure that the information that has been sent out since then has reached the people who continue to remove the bands.

What this project has done is gotten people talking about art – what they like, what they don’t like, what they would do if given the chance. It has gotten people talking about litter, but unfortunately not about addressing the litter problem in general (people even state being “used to” it), only about not creating new litter, which is certainly not the intent of this project, and litter generated by this project should be removed.

We hope that this dialogue about art continues. We can certainly always learn more about what the public does and does not want. This is our first foray into temporary public art, and we hope to do more in the future.