Civic practice artist Frances Whitehead and Jim Elniski, artist and clinical social worker, collaborate on this urban agriculture-based installation that illustrates, in tangible measure, how social justice and environmental justice are deeply linked. The partners spent the past five years growing an edible landscape and Community Lab Orchard in their residential community in Gary, Indiana. Questions of sustainability, culture change, and participation motivate their work as they consider the interdependence of multiple ecologies in the post-industrial city.
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.
About Frances Whitehead
Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist bringing the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Connecting emerging art practices, to discourses of sustainability, heritage, just-transition, and remediation, she works as a Public Artist, expanding the role of artists in society and within multiple ecologies, asking, What do Artists Know? Whitehead has worked professionally as an artist since the mid 1980’s and has worked collaboratively as ARTetal Studio since 2001. She is Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
About Jim Elinski
Jim Elniski is an artist whose individual work and community projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally. His community-engaged art projects, in conjunction with various human-service organizations, educational sites and neighborhood associations, explore the dynamic interplay of the aesthetic experience, human behavior, and the social environment. He is Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a licensed clinical social worker in private practice.
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