there is history in soil

Berlin based, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves at The High Line.

You think you know what’s going on.  You get endless emails about events, openings, receptions, exhibits, public art, lectures, conversations, panel discussions and still you can miss something important.  Today I received an email from the Vera Center A Ballast Flora Garden at High Line, Pioneer Works, and Weeksville Heritage Center.  What is a ballast garden?  Like I said you think you know stuff, but…In a unique partnership and for the first time, High LinePioneer Works and Weeksville Heritage Center come together to show the intertwined histories and landscapes of Brooklyn and Manhattan.


Maria Thereza Alves, Yerba Buena Center for the ARts

Each organization is launching one of Berlin-based, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves’ A Ballast Flora Garden, exploring the distinct and fraught histories of colonial trade and forced migration, their repercussions in today’s flora and echoes in today’s immigration policies. 

I was very surprised to find out I missed, Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York – A Botany of Colonization at the New School last year.  “Alves’ Seeds of Change studies displaced plants in ballast—the waste material historically used to balance ships in maritime trade. Dumped in ports at the end of passages, ballast often carried “dormant” seeds collected from its place of origin that remained in the soil for hundreds of years before germinating and growing. Alves identifies the seeds as she looks at how plants trace the displacement of lands and people from the transatlantic slave trades”

To understand this history, Alves’ has worked with horticultural experts and local communities at Pioneer WorksThe High LineThe New School and Weeksville Heritage Center to research the ballast flora and the stories it tells about migration, commodification and valuation. Each organization brings a distinct botanical history and community to the project.  – Vera Center

I am writing this post, before I have a chance to visit the three sites.  “Things come and have a walking history.  And when we think of soil we do not think about traveling soil.  There is history in soil.”  Wilma Lukatsch, Art Historian.

A Ballast Flora Garden
at High Line, Pioneer Works, and Weeksville Heritage Center

High Line
on the High Line at 12 Ave & 32 St, NY
April 19, 2018 – March 2019
On the High Line at the Western Rail Yards, at 12th Avenue and 32nd Street
April 19, 2018 – March 2019
Part of Agora

Lunchtime Reading Sessions
On the High Line at the Tiffany Overlook at Gansevoort St
May 23, 2018, 12:30 – 2:00 pm
July 25 12:30 – 2:00 pm
September 19 12:30 – 2:00 pm
The High Line hosts a three brown-bag lunchtime reading sessions, with texts inspired by Maria Thereza Alves’ project. The readings for each session are selected and presented by Friends of the High Line staff from different departments, including Horticulture, Education, and the High Line Network.

Pioneer Works 
159 Pioneer St, Brooklyn
May 12– October, 2018
Second Sundays Family Program
Drop-in family workshops engaging with the Ballast Flora Garden
May 13 4:00 – 7:00pm
June 10 4:00 – 7:00pm

Red Hook Ecology Walks
Summer – Fall 2018

Red Hook Ecology Roundtable 
June, July and August 2018

For more information and to register, please visit

Weeksville Heritage Center
158 Buffalo Ave, Brooklyn
May 12– October, 2018

Weeksville Heritage Center’s 50th Anniversary and Exhibition Opening Event
May 12, 2018

Weeksville’s Ballast Flora Student Workshop
April 3 – May 29, 2018 2:00 – 4:00pm on Tuesdays
Age group 8 -12
Curriculum outline: Plant Science; Hands-on Art Making; Experiments; Weeksville’s History and Ballast Flora; Ecology of Red Hook; and Gentrification, Race, Politics.

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