Jane Ingram Allen created the “Crossing Borders” installation to mark the point of leaving the urban world and entering the world of nature. During a month-long stay Jane led local art teachers and school children in adding twigs, branches, living vines, wild flowers and handmade paper to create a fence/entryway reminiscent of the Fycke fish trap once used by Native Americans living in TCC’s wetlands. The paper fish were created from native plants in the shape of fish species found in the nearby creek, and the paper pulp contained wildflower seeds to sprout and grow over time.
The goals of integrating this commissioned artwork into the project were to soften the rigid and industrial look of the existing entry structure constructed by county workers and involve the local school and community in working with an artist to create an entryway sculpture installation that connected to the environmental mission of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy and raised public awareness about local environmental issues. The "Crossing Borders" project was the key ingredient in the overall goal of making this entry to the Conservancy connect to the local community and involve local people and junior high students across the street from this entrance in helping to create the artwork with the artist. This project successfully involved the students from the junior high, high school and elementary school as well as the seniors residing in the adjoining Heritage Pointe facility and other community volunteers. The artist worked with all of these various peoples to realize the project as well as working with the staff and Public Art Committee of Teaneck Creek Conservancy. The overall design and construction of the entryway was completed in the next year with signage and a crosswalk further connecting the community and Conservancy.
The artist corresponded with the director of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy to set up meetings with the Conservancy's Public Art Committee that included the Conservancy's artist in residence, local educators and other interested in public art. After the meeting and site visit the artist prepared an initial design plan for the "Crossing Borders" sculpture installation and worked with the staff and committee to apply for a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and secure the cooperation and participation of the junior high school across the street, an intern from a nearby university art department to assist the artist during the project, and Teaneck High School senior volunteers. The project also cooperated with the Teaneck Creek Conservancy community volunteers who helped with the planning and construction of the sculpture installation, and the artist offered workshops for community people and Open Studio sessions for hands-on participation in the installation. The artist stayed at the nearby Senior Living Facility called Heritage Pointe and also enlisted the participation of senior residents in the project and provided a workshop at their facility during the project to get their participation in the "Crossing Borders" project.
This project not only raised public awareness about the environment, but it was unique in that it provides a changing artwork that goes with the processes of nature to come back each year with wildflowers to mark the entryway into the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. The gateway sculpture of vines and fallen branches will last for many years until it too dissolves into the earth as mulch, and the entryway wild flowers will continue to greet visitors and community people as they come into this urban nature oasis.
Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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