Chicago Tree Installation to Showcase Climate Change

Chicago, IL (December 3, 2013) – A new installation of serviceberry trees along Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, called the 606, will bring the public face-to-face with the unpredictability of climate change, through something as simple as a flower’s budding. Education and beauty.

Chicago Bloomingdale trailSculptor Frances Whitehead , professor of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, wants to use art to help people imagine a more sustainable future. According to Whitehead, sustainability “is a cultural problem and artists can help find the solution.”

Whitehead is the lead artist on Chicago’s newest park, the 606, which will transform three straight miles of an abandoned rail line into parks, bike and running trails, and pedestrian walkways. Formerly known as the Bloomingdale Trail, the park is spearheaded by the Trust for Public Land.

Alongside the 606, Whitehead, with the help of engineers and landscape architects, has designed an installation that will bring trail users face-to-face with the effects of climate change.

Lining the trails, 453 apple serviceberry trees will bloom in a wave, spreading east to west over the course of five days, thanks to Chicago’s legendary lake effect, which keeps temperatures cooler near Lake Michigan. Scientists and the public will be able to track the blooming year-to-year, keeping a running diary of shifts in climate.

Mile markers set in the jogging path near specific trees will be fitted with barcodes so that park visitors can keep track of when they bloom. Blooming periods will be measured against the bud and bloom of lilac bushes along the path and forsythia that will trail over more than 30 bridges and overpasses on the 606.

Over time, these trees will bring the public face-to-face with the unpredictability of climate change, through something as simple as a flower’s budding. Planting along the 606 is scheduled to begin late next summer, resuming in the spring of 2015.

Source: Lori Rotenberk, “When it comes to climate change, this artist lets the trees do the talking,” Grist