Pop-up arts installations and “guerilla” art tactics have been transforming public spaces for decades. “Yarn bombing” is an example of this: it’s a popular trend in which colorful, knitted pieces are placed on monuments, trees, or other structures as a way to beautify or transform a public space. Graffiti could also be considered a form of guerrilla art, in that it is rebellious, public, and has the power to transform whatever structure it’s a part of.
What about guerrilla gardening? Up until recently, guerrilla gardening was not something I ever considered. In a current pop-up arts installation in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, a public work called “Sheep Station” transformed a Getty gas station into a pastoral scene, complete with sculpted sheep wandering about a grassy covering. In this wonderful scene, lush grass covers the formerly asphalt parking lot, and sheep graze among the gas pumps. The installation is so striking because of the incredible contrast between the country essence of the grass and sheep, juxtaposed with an urban gas station.
Though art collector Michael Shvo organized this particular example of an urban transformation, actual guerrilla gardening has been a part of New York City since the 1970s. The “Green Guerrillas” are a group with a rich history of infusing abandoned or barren urban spaces with flowers, plants, and grass. According to the New York Green Guerrillas’ history,
“In the early 1970’s, the original band of green guerillas decided to do something about the urban decay they saw all around them. They threw “seed green-aids” over the fences of vacant lots. They planted sunflower seeds in the center meridians of busy New York City streets. They put flower boxes on the window ledges of abandoned buildings…
Soon they turned their attention to a large, debris-filled vacant lot on the corner of Bowery and Houston Streets. Where other people saw a vacant lot, they saw a community garden. People donated their time and talents. Local stores and nurseries donated vegetables clippings and seeds. They created the Bowery Houston Farm and Garden – and they sparked a movement.”
I was so happy to learn about the Green Guerrillas and how they transform urban surroundings through gardening. What do you think about guerrilla gardening?