Urban Tree Project: Interview with Deirdre Power

What is Urban Tree Project?

Urban Tree Project is a socially engaged art practice that approach works towards affecting change through visible interventions and discourse in the field of interdisciplinary research to shape political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action. Within the art making process, the practice emphasizes people in relationships to each other and their surroundings.

The project is a collaborative and participatory process engaging the residents of Castletroy View, artists Deirdre A Power, Jacki Hehir and the N.G.O The Woodland League. It now has evolved into a state of pro-active relations, inspired by the resident children of Castletroy View and their continuous engagement with Brokenland, a site-specific installation from June 2011. Power created an image on how the communities view, quiet literally, might be changed by planting trees. This culminated in the placement of a large billboard in the green area of the estate in an effort to raise awareness to the complexities of spatial planning in Limerick. (fig.1)

Re-Imagine Reboge Meadows, Deirdre A Power, 2011

The residents of Castletroy View in Limerick City have lived with the daily site of a rusting failed shell, the Parkway Valley Shopping Centre and a ‘”Gaza Strip” strip of disused equipment and debris for the past 5 years. Their intention is to reclaim their space by not only challenging the view of the failed development that currently overlooks their green, but also by re-imagining their place as it should be.

“We would love to see our green area restored to some natural beauty by the addition of mature native trees to shield us from the industrial eyesore beyond our border”.

-Maggie Jardine- Residents Committee, Castletroy View.

What Activities Does Urban Tree Project Conduct?

The project endeavours to advocate an educational and participatory program that investigates the value of native trees within an urban context. The pedagogical rational is to develop a continued, sustained discourse within the community to the ideas and aspirations that form the very basis of community life. It should be considered that community is not a given, but something that needs to be taken to nurture and maintain an ongoing developmental society. Our first workshop became the foundation stone where the community were introduced to native tree species within their locality whilst also highlighting awareness to the Groody Valley Protected Wedge that borders their estate, and beyond the development. This action was followed by an open workshop a week later on the green in Castletroy View, again facilitated by The Woodland League, where the community and their children planted ten native tree saplings.

By Learning to Identify the Native Tree Species a Bond has Been Formed, Personalizing Their Connection and Creating an Affinity for the Children with Their Native Trees

Our next stage is building a Dunemann Seedbed with the help of the residents committee of Castletroy View, St. Brigid’s National School and the Woodland League. The Dunemann Seedbed, which acts as a tree nursery by using only natural substances such as leaf mulch to emulate the forests bed, which consequently propagates the young tree saplings from seed. It allows the saplings to strengthen and after 12 months they are transplanted out of the bed and nursed for at least another year to help develop their root systems before being planted in their final destination. The seedbed can furthermore be reused thereafter, each year. The seed’s that will be planted within the Dunemann Seedbed system shall be sown from an Arboretum 20km south of Limerick City in Broadford, Co. Limerick. This specific Arboretum houses sample of every one of Irelands native trees, ensuring that the seeds collected will be certifiably native.

What Have You Learned From Urban Tree Project?

A form of success in this work is to seek collective actualisation while existing in the aftermath of controversial planning decisions and the destructive power of the downturn in the economy. It is hoped this work will be a positive step in promoting change at local level and re-imagining the future for places such as Castletroy View and for the restoration of our own future and beyond. This project has the potential to enhance discourse through further education and awareness of biodiversity, tree planting, learning about native tree and plant species, and landscaping within an urban environment.

The Mighty Oak: The First Tree Planted by Urban Tree Project on the Green in Castletroy, 2012

Why is urban tree project important/necessary?

This project will build on the basic principles already instilled in the residents through the active participation in environmental projects, cleanups, waste management.  The progression to developing and physically changing the environment is a natural and sustainable one which will last for many years.  The practical issue evident in this project is the reclamation of the green area ceded to property developers, who then failed in their endeavours and abandoned the development and the estate. Such success in light of controversial planning decisions and the destructive power of the downturn in the economy will be a positive step in promoting environmental change at local level.

What has Been the Impact of Urban Tree Project & What Does the Future Hold?

The project has galvanized the community in re-imagining their space and e-claiming the area they live in. Projects of this nature help to realise aspirations and move a community forward. Addressing issues that place the environment in a position of necessity are paramount in redirecting change, albeit at a local level.

This project so far has been a major success as the Residents of Castletroy View succeeded in wining first place in the local Going For Gold Community Challenge 2011. The community also is working with the landscape architect Dave Ryan in realising their green spaces in the estate.

Passing on the Seeds of Knowledge

In early October we will organised a field trip for the children of Castletroy View to travel to Broadford Arboretum in Co. Limerick to collect native tree seeds for sowing in a Dunemann Seedbed, a tree seedling propagation system. Working in conjunction with Eva International 2012 and the Woodland League, Urban Tree Project aims can contribute to a long-term investment within the school curriculum by providing an outreach programme that will not only benefit St. Brigid’s School but also the community at large. This extended process will be documented for the purpose of producing what we hope will be an educational film and publication on the benefits of including nature and outdoor awareness in education.

Deirdre A Power (b. 1963) NDAD, MA.  Through social engagement Power’s practice bridges the intersection between civic authority and communities needs whilst offering resources and tools that help clarify our association to place. The dialogue that is established with a variety of agencies exposes the complexities and failures of spatial planning and propels community’s involvement in future decision-making. Power has exhibited widely and is represented by the Phatory Gallery in New York.  Exhibitions include EVA, Kilkenny Arts Festival, RHA, Triskel Art Centre and the National Self Portrait Collection. She has received numerous awards and residencies including the Mac Dowell Colony Residency in New Hampshire, USA.



Jacki Hehir (b.1976) Limerick. Socially Engaged Practitioner of Art, BA, MA. Has exhibited in the U.K. and Ireland and has received awards in both countries for her positive representations of the Travelling Community for her performance as an undergraduate in the Nikon Discovery Expo, London 2008.  Working on an ongoing basis with N.G.O. The Woodland League and in collaborations with fellow artists and community groups, Hehir employs her role as artist, to highlight some of the political and socio-economical tendencies that are otherwise excluded from our general knowledge or ignored. The juxtaposition between economics and the environment are a medium for her most recent works and actions.  


One response to “Urban Tree Project: Interview with Deirdre Power

  1. Pingback: 10 Groups Changing Ireland’s Urban Fabric | Designing The Landscape·

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