Area of Concern
Ash lumber milled from a tree infected with emerald ash borer, fabric, ash tree mulch
Taking place at Crosby Farm Regional Park, Area of Concern is a public program that includes a site-specific installation, live happenings, and a publication centered around the emerald ash borer—an insect introduced to Minnesota in 2009 that is expected to cause the functional extinction of ash trees.
The program invites artists and audiences to engage with the broader theme of “living through extinction,” expanding perspectives on interrelated issues that the ash borer is tangled up in, including ecological grief and legacies of colonialism, displacement, and exploitation.
The installation is built from the wood of two infected ash trees that were felled at a nearby home in Apple Valley in August 2022. Functioning as both a temporary gathering space and a quiet place for reflection, it offers a site to sit with the forest as it adjusts to the loss of its leading tree. The structure’s plain, exposed heartwood mirrors the bare bark of the trees it foregrounds, evoking something like a memorial while also subtly suggesting an architecture made from the mess of our past.
We are deeply grateful for the community that convened around Area of Concern, and we could not have asked for a more thoughtful group of artists and educators to have embarked on this project with. For lending your knowledges, abilities, and time, thank you April Stone, Hope Flanagan, Kathryn Savage, Kaya Lovestrand, and Su Hwang.
Angie Tillges—the City of St. Paul’s Great River Passage Fellow and a tireless advocate for connecting people and natural places—cleared countless hurdles for this installation to be realized. Sarah Wolf at Back of Beyond Press printed the physical publication on her Riso press.
Melissa Vang, for the beautiful and thoughtful documentation.
A project of this scale would have been impossible without Forecast Public Art’s support, which we received through their Early-Career Artist Project Grant. A very special thanks to Forecast’s Aki Shibata.
This installation is situated on sacred ground of the Dakota people, whose historic and contemporary stewardship of this area allow us to be in relationship to these lands and waters today.
April, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Ojibwe, is widely recognized for her working knowledge around weaving baskets made from the fibers of black ash trees. During this demonstration, visitors were invited to learn about this process and tradition, gather splint material from an ash log, and try their hands at weaving.
Hope, a Seneca elder and the community outreach and culture teacher at Dream of Wild Health, will led an educational plant walk through Crosby Farm. Participants learned more about the cultural connections between this place and Indigenous peoples, and expand their understandings of the numerous plant relatives beyond the ash tree that are found throughout the park, highlighting the interconnectedness of this floodplain forest ecosystem.
"If you zoom in close enough, could you still see the place where your feet end and the soil begins? What if you zoom out far enough?" In a performance from dance artist Kaya Lovestrand, audiences were invited to tune into the sights, sounds, and smells of the floodplain forest, cultivating an attentiveness useful for navigating the feelings of ambiguous loss that accompany both personal and ecological grief.
Milling the lumber ourselves was a completely eye opening experience. Witnessing the tree go from rooted into the ground, to dimensional lumber laid before us, inspired a sense grief, but also gratitude and wonder.
We hope to inspire a sense of respect within viewers, as well as ourselves, for the materials we use and waste when building, or simply living our lives day to day.