Dolores Altin and Elvira Monteforte didn’t know about Suzanne Simard’s new book — or the upcoming Hollywood flick about her UBC forestry studies, starring Amy Adams — when they applied to create a fun tree installation in Port Coquitlam.
When they put in their bid earlier this year to be the city’s next artists-in-residence at Lions Park, the design artists had based their proposal on Simard’s studies that all trees and plants are linked through a secret social system below ground.
In their research, they toured the downtown park and, struck by the number and ages of the trees, they pitched the concept of dressing them up as if the trees were bringing their social life above ground, for a kind of imaginary cocktail party.
“We wanted to create a celebration in an area that sees a lot of visitors of all ages, every day,” Monteforte told the Tri-City News. “It’s like as if they trees are inviting us to their social.”
On Saturday, the pair will launch their first workshop — after getting the OK from the city — to get the public to help dress up 25 trees in Lions Park, weaving circle and stripe cut-outs to create costumes that will be wrapped around the trunks.
“They’re going to be dressed in Christian Dior!” Monteforte joked.
“No, gowns by Chanel!” Altin responded with a laugh.
Titled The Social Connection, the installation is the second collaboration between Altin and Monteforte.
In 2019, they mentored teens for two months for the Studio in the City 12 and made a gathering space anchored by a harvest table for the Queensbury neighbourhood in the city of North Vancouver.
For their PoCo installation, however, the pair will be phasing in the tree costumes as the workshops progress throughout the summer; they’re also hoping to keep the dresses up for the winter, too, to brighten the area during the dark, cold months.
Working out of the field house, at the south end of the park, the artists have picked out individual and grouped trees nearby for the party: A cluster of five trees will represent a family while the “Three Amigos” will be flirting with the single trees.
In all, they make up the diversity of Canada. “They’re in an enchanted forest and you can see their personalities coming out,” Monteforte said. “They’re having fun and so are we.”
“The message is that we, as a community, are more connected and resilient, as laid out in the principals by Suzanne Simard.”
As for the unnatural materials — such as plastic, foam, vinyl shower curtains and reflective tape — being used for The Social Connection installation, Altin said it’s a juxtaposition.
Still, no harm will be done to the trees with paint or nails.
• Drop by Lions Park (2300 Lions Way, Port Coquitlam) on Canada Day from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet Dolores Altin and Elvira Monteforte and to learn more about The Social Connection.
The workshop dates:
- June 26, 1 to 4 p.m. #54218
- July 14, 1 to 4 p.m. #54220
- July 21, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. #54221
- Aug. 4, 1 to 4 p.m. #55394
- Aug. 18, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. #55395
The weaving workshops are open to participants ages 12 and older.
To sign up for a free workshop, visit portcoquitlam.ca/register (COVID-19 protocols will be in place). To learn more about the artists and their project, visit portcoquitlam.ca/air.