How to Draw a Tree – the participatory audio project of FOUR sound walks following mapped routes in The Arboretum, University of Guelph, is now live at HowToDrawaTree.ca.
(Trees, Wellness and Creativity)
How to Draw a Tree – the participatory audio project dreamed up by my friend, social practice artist Dawn Matheson, of FOUR sound walks following mapped routes in The Arboretum, University of Guelph, is now live at How To Draw a Tree. The project brings individuals living with mental illnesses together with trees for a year-long creative, care-taking, reciprocal engagement culminating in an immersive public sound walk at The Arboretum, or online created by me!
Reciprocal relationship building through collaboration and creativity is at the heart of this work, with the goal of combating isolation and creating social change where it is most needed. In turn, we hope the work will help cultivate wonder for nature, so that we will care for it, as it cares for us.
The walks are intended to be experienced as you walk in The Arboretum with the forest is a co-narrator providing all the visuals, but you can also listen and look from anywhere you are and experience the visual, accessible versions of all four sound walks online.
To create the visuals (photography and drone footage) for the second phase of How to Draw Tree, I walked with each of the students, members of the Tree Team, and Dawn – making notes and snapping studies so that I could find my way along the routes when I returned at more optimal times of day on my own. The walks with were magical experiences in the forest (except the blood sucking mosquitos that swarmed me in the early summer) of slow looking and exploring, as The Arboretum never ceases to surprise me with spaces I didn’t know about like the old tree lined street display in Carey’s walk, or the deer that literally crossed our path on the Summer Solstice in Abhiraj’s walk, or the eagle that soared by my drone when I was filming Jordie’s tree canopy. I was humbled by the strength of the students to share their personal stores of mental health and pathways to wellness and Dawn’s trust in me to bring their walks to life online.
One amazing result of this project was a tree planting. Sister trees to each of the trees selected by Dawn (in her prototype walk), and the students engaged in the sound walks this year were planted on the Johnston Green – the front lawn of University of Guelph – as part of a dedicated mental wellness circle of trees, accessible to everyone!