Hartwick Art History Students Recreate Tree-planting Initiative

May 16, 2011

On the morning of Wednesday, May 25, Hartwick College students enrolled in the Contemporary Art History class led by Assistant Professor of Art History Douglas Zullo will recreate a tree-planting initiative originally completed by artist Joseph Beuys in 1982.

The original project called for 7,000 oak trees to be planted in and around Kassel, Germany. Beuys erected a stone pillar beside each tree, providing the viewer with a juxtaposition between growth and stability. Inspired by the social and environmental implications of the project, the Hartwick students chose to extend Beuys' project to the College campus.

"When we were studying Beuys' work, his project really struck a chord with us," explained Hope Irion '13. "We were inspired by it because not only is it an impressive artistic statement, but it has a real environmental impact too. Given Hartwick's emphasis on sustainability, we thought it would be a really cool thing to do here."

Irion noted that planting 7,000 trees on the Hartwick College campus on short notice was quickly scratched from the planning, but after intense discussion of Beuys' work and the best materials to use in their project, the students decided to plant one tree--oak or maple--alongside a basalt pillar outside the Department of Art History offices in Anderson Center for the Arts.

The project has involved each class member in a variety of different roles--from sourcing materials to seeking administrative approval. The process has been "hectic" and "intense," Irion said, but "there's no better way than to study contemporary art history than to actually do it."

Beuys claimed his original intent for the 7,000 Oaks project was to continue and extend the project around the globe. The Hartwick students intend to continue that legacy by becoming one of a very few sites in the nation to take up his mantle, and also hope that the project at the College can be continued by future generations.

"We're putting together a guide to our process so Professor Zullo can give that to other classes." Irion said. "Hopefully this is a legacy thing so other classes can contribute more trees. Hartwick College is the perfect place to bring Beuys' thought-provoking and inspiring project."

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030