This summer, Montclair Alumni Ruth Borgenicht ’16 and Dana Hemes ’14 were two of four artists invited by the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey for a summer lab for social practice to discover and harness the bounty of available resources of the Art Center and surrounding land and community. The gallery was used as studio space to map out the artistic, agricultural experiments. Members of the local public were invited to engage with the artists, who also had the opportunity to share practices at the local farmers’ market.
Ruth Borgenicht tells us,
My work harnesses local resources and generates a sense of place and community. For the residency I worked on two projects.
The first project, LAWN PLOT, started last Spring when I requested that the art center allow a plot of lawn in their yard be left un-mowed. What grew was an astounding variety of what we call weeds, not to mention a handful of different kinds of grasses. With the help of young students we labeled 30 different plants and revealed that “lawn” is actually a collection of plants. Some plants are native, others foreign invasives, and discussions were generated as to what those terms actually mean.
The second, CULTIVATING CULTURE, merged two distinct meanings of culture: ARTS and CULTIVATE. The Art Center exists in the realm of ARTS while the town’s farmers market exists in the second meaning of culture.
On market day, I reintroduced vegetables, procured a week earlier from the Summit farmer’s market, back to share with the public. They were fermented by harnessing local bacteria or “culture” from the Art Center’s gallery. This project merged the two meanings of culture that were once confluent – the arts and agriculture. Reconnecting people to their surroundings and community through Culture and all of its meanings.