A dilapidated 35-year-old tree sculpture at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Empire Boulevard is badly in need of a transformation – and community leaders (including Tim Thomas, the author of The Q at Parkside blog) are spearheading efforts to raise money to create a work of public art that will be the envy of the city.
We’re sure most of you know the sculpture we’re talking about – the three sheet metal and concrete trees – but if you haven’t seen it, the reason that Tim and others are working so hard to get new public art is because what resides there now is “dented, rusty, falling apart.”
Last year, artist David Eppley (who lives in the neighborhood) was chosen to create a new piece of public art at the intersection and received $2,000 for the project – but more is needed to ensure that it’s finished. The fundraising campaign will run through Sept. 19.
Located at the northern entrance to the Flatbush neighborhood, the project will be immensely visible and intensely symbolic. Local blogger and activist Tim Thomas has championed the project through the past two years, getting the necessary approvals and publicizing the project widely. He now intends to use his community-building skills AND his fundraising acumen (that’s his day-job) to bring $10,000 to the project for the cost of materials and equipment.
Almost anyone familiar with central Brooklyn knows the spot well. At the meeting of three major roads – Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Empire Boulevard – one finds oneself across from Prospect Park, the Botanic Garden, the giant Phat Albert’s Warehouse building and a peculiar plaza with three green trees made of metal, with bulky cement trunks. The tree-sculpture is dented, rusty, falling apart. It’s decay says “you are entering a part of Brooklyn that doesn’t care.” It’s not true of course. That’s why we want to tell the REAL story. And it’s why we call the project “Spring Arrives for the Flatbush Trees.”
Originally meant to welcome visitors and spur economic activity, the so-called “Flatbush Trees” are now a sign of decay and of the blighted decades behind us. A team of relevant stakeholders has come together to approve a vision – and now all we need is money for the materials and we’re off. Community Board 9 has unanimously approved the project. The NYC DOT has given its blessing AND $2,000 in seed money. Both the site and proposed art have tremendous symbolic value for the neighborhood as it grapples with the many issues currently facing it.
David won’t be working alone on the project – and he’s now identifying 12 to 15 young artists (who are neighborhood middle school students) to work with him to create the 1,500 vinyl hexagon shapes that are needed to attach to the trees.
The kids will be asked to create drawings on the insides of the multi-colored individually made pentagrams, so that each piece is unique. When connected however, the effect is almost of one super- organism (see pictures). Again, the idea is to suggest that spring, or a kind of rebirth, has come to Flatbush. The week-to-ten-day installation phase will require renting a scissor lift, and we will also paint the cement “trunks” of the trees. Included in the design and manufacture phase of the building blocks of the project, essentially extra-curricular “classes” for motivated students, Eppley will have an opportunity to share with local students some of his experiences as a professional artist and teach real-life shop skills to students unavailable in the typical art curriculum. We expect the full diversity of our neighborhood to be tapped throughout, and the signage will bear the names of all who’ve participated in this community-wide project.