Frances Whitehead

ABOG Fellow for Socially Engaged Art

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. A series of linked civic initiatives include The Embedded Artist Project with the City of Chicago; SLOW Cleanup, a culturally driven phytoremediation program for abandoned gas stations; climate-monitoring plantings throughout the USA and Europe; and an urban agriculture plan with the City of Lima, Peru. Whitehead was the Lead Artist for The 606, a rail infrastructure adaptive reuse project in Chicago and continues to advise on the citizen science climate observation program as part of the art program. She has exhibited widely, at venues such as the UN COP15 Copenhagen; Museum of Arts and Design, NY; Viinistu Art Museum, Estonia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Centrum Rzeźby Polskiej, Orońsko, Poland; Brooklyn Museum; and The Drawing Center, NY, and has been cited by ART21The New York TimesCarbon Arts Melbourne, Art/Design/PoliticsSculpture Magazine; Art in AmericaArtforumFrieze, and Discovery Channel television. Whitehead is Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her ABOG Fellowship will support Fruit Futures Initiative Gary (FFIG), an experimental community orchard project under development with the Emerson neighborhood of Gary, Indiana. Working in collaboration with community partners, religious groups, and nearby academic institutions, the project will use the multipurpose landscapes of fruiting trees and shrubs aim to engage, educate, and express the creative aspirations of the community. These first experiences will inform the long-term work of FFIG towards a network of community orchards and a conversation about cultural futures beyond conventional re-development strategies. As soils are readied and public imaginations engaged, community-driven productive landscapes and experimental orchards allow low-density neighborhoods to contribute to foodshed resilience, grow civic pride, and collectively evolve new creative foodways, linking place, identity and environmental justice.

Planting a Creative Community Lab Orchard in Gary, Indiana – Reports from the Field

Visit Frances Whitehead’s website

Artist portrait by Janeil Englestad + Chris Csikszentmihalyi.

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