WE THE WEEDS
WE THE WEEDS is a Philadelphia-based botanical arts collaboration headed by artist Kaitlin Pomerantz and botanist Zya S. Levy. WE THE WEEDS creates interdisciplinary, intermedia projects that highlight and investigate the presence of the natural world within the manmade landscape, and specifically, ecological systems at work in post-industrial Philadelphia. Works include ethnobotanical plant tours, participatory art and science experiments, public art installations, educational outreach, and culinary and sensory plant experiences. WE THE WEEDS has worked in participation with Practice Gallery, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Asian Arts Initiative, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Penn Center for Urban Research, among other organizations.
WE THE WEEDS begin in 2011 as an informal union between artist and scientist seeking to better understand the variety of ruderal plant life in Philadelphia’s vacant lots and abandoned infrastructure. The earliest WE THE WEEDS activity consisted of taking walks. The first WE THE WEEDS project involved of inventorying Philadelphia’s spontaneous plant (“weed”) species, creating botanical labels for these species, and pasting the labels onto city streets as a form of public urban taxonomy, plant curation, citizen science, and the affirmation of the vital role of vacant urban space.
WE THE WEEDS has received help from and/or affiliates with the following individuals: artist John Heron, builder Greg Charnock, sustainability consultant and contractor Travis Douglas, artist and builder Sarah Finestone, artist and designer Mary Rothlisberger, artist Aislinn Pentecost Farren, artist Anamaya Farthing-Kohl, artist Kim Beck, artist Maria Moller; and following organizations: Friends of the Rail Park, Philadelphia Mural Arts, Practice Space, RAIR Philly, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Center for Emerging Visual Artists.
- 2011-ongoing, Street Taxonomy, Kaitlin Pomerantz/WE THE WEEDS
- A series of hand-printed 18th-century-inspired botanical labels for ruderal plant species, installed in situ in vacant lots and public landscape in Philadelphia. Labels created and printed at Second State Press, Philadelphia.
- 2013, Fort Mifflin Wild Plant Trek and Botanical Cordial//Ruins at High Battery, Hidden City, WE THE WEEDS
- A guided trek through the ruins of Fort Mifflin– a decommissioned Revolutionary War fort, and site of Hidden City artists Nieditz and Webber’s “Ruins at High Battery” project, concluding with a Revolutionary War-era botanical cordial.
- 2013, Peripatetic Censor Mechanism, Practice Gallery, Philadelphia, WE THE WEEDS
- Following an experiment wherein Charles Darwin cultivated 80 plants from a ball of mud stuck to a wounded French partridge’s leg, British botanist Sir Edward Salisbury (1886-1978) famously grew an entire garden from the botanical debris collected in his trouser cuffs. WE THE WEEDS recreated this experiment by installing a catwalk over a garden bed at Practice Gallery, Philadelphia, and asking gallery visitors to shake out their shoes. Growth was tracked and anaylzed to see if urbanites are indeed the “peripatetic censor mechanisms, scattering seeds as we walk about” that Salisbury claimed humans to be.
- 2013, Drink the Weeds, Hot Tea/Asian Arts Alliance
- Public tea-from-weeds event.
- 2013, Seeds of Change, Philadelphia Mural Arts, Kaitlin Pomerantz/WE THE WEEDS
- Educational programming and outreach, seed-dispersing paper murals
- 2014, Neighborhood Nature, Philadelphia Mural Arts, Kaitlin Pomerantz/WE THE WEEDS
- Two-block Mural Treatment
- 2014, “Ecstatic Sticks”, hosted by Temporary Services, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
- 2014, Humans//Natures, book publication, Philadelphia Mural Arts, WE THE WEEDS
- 2014-15, Landlab Residency, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Zya Levy/WE THE WEEDS
- 2014-15, Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, Kaitlin Pomerantz/WE THE WEEDS
AWARDS/RESIDENCIES 2014 Landlab Artist in Residence, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, PA Artist in Residence, RAIR Philly, PA A20 Artist in Residence, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, PA 2013 Restored Spaces Lead Artist, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, PA Finalist, Philly Stake Grant, PA
EXHIBITIONS 2015 Monument Lab, Penn Institute for Urban Research, Philadelphia (curators: Will Brown, Ken Lum, Paul Farber) Drawing Conclusions, The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia 2014 Process and Progress, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, PA 2013 Beyond the Paint, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Me and Earth, Pile of Bricks, Philadelphia
PUBLIC PRESENTATIONS 2015 Panelist, Tri-State Sustainability Symposium, Delaware Green Building Council, Philadelphia 2014 “Ecstatic Sticks”, hosted by Temporary Services, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia “Art, Ecology and Restored Spaces”, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia 2013 Kensington Weeds Walk, Pile of Bricks, Philadelphia “Ethnobotany in the Eraserhood”, Practice Space, Philadelphia “Invisible Cities”, Sculpture Gym, Philadelphia “Hot Tea”, Asian Arts Alliance, Philadelphia Plant Trek and Botanical Cordial, HIDDEN CITY FESTIVAL, Philadelphia
- “Philadelphia Project Turns Invasive Weeds into Cocktails,” Mike Pomranz, Food & Wine Magazine
- “Pennsylvanians are Putting Weeds in their Cocktails”, Aaron Case, Vice Magazine
- “Sustainability through Art”, Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer
- “Weed ‘em and Reap”, Alex Kershaw, Open College of Arts - Fine Arts Journal
- “Social Practice, story elicitation and ‘puzzle plants’”, Julius Ferraro, Off the Wall Blog
- “Not just a pile of bricks”, Sam Newhouse, Fishtown Star
- “Project spreads knowledge of urban plants”, Claire Sasko, Temple Magazine
- “WEEDS”, Grid Magazine
- “Seeds of Change in West Philadelphia”, Off the Wall - Philadelphia Mural Arts Blog
- “We The Weeds: a botanical bounty at Practice Gallery”, Chip Schwartz, Knight Arts News
- “First Friday”, Roberta Fallon, the artBlog
- “‘Peripatetic Censor Mechanism’ at Practice”, Matt Kalansky, The Midnight Edna St. Claire