Frances Whitehead and Jim Elniski bring the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Questions of sustainability, culture change, and participation motivate their work as they consider their surrounding community of Gary (Indiana), the landscape, and the interdependence of multiple ecologies in the post-industrial city. At the Art Center, the artists present The Gary Projects; two ongoing, interrelated urban agriculture engagements, which illustrate in tangible measures that social justice and environmental justice are deeply linked.
Modest Modernism models an edible landscape in the “suburban wild” producing an “inventory” of 300 jars of canned produce, grown at the residential garden of Whitehead and Elniski over the course of 4-5 years. Their private research has led to a large-scale public fruit growing initiative, Fruit Futures Initiative Gary (FFIG), and The Community Lab Orchard, a demonstration orchard in the Emerson neighborhood of downtown Gary. This installation of canned produce, video, and graphic documentation challenges us to expand our assumptions and activities around land use and the ethics and aesthetics of civic space.