Garden for a Changing Climate

Partners and Locations: American Indian Center, Albany Park; Marshall Square Resource Network, Marshall Square/Little Village; Sweet Water Foundation, Washington Park; 360 Nation, West Garfield Park; Office of Sustainability, University of Illinois at Chicago

Garden for a Changing Climate is a community-driven participatory public art project created by artist Jenny Kendler that uses a traveling garden of local plants to give Chicagoans a dynamic and tangible experience of the effects of climate change.

Through this moving and multi-sited garden, Chicago residents can envision the otherwise largely invisible, slow, and dispersed threat of climate change, and understand how a shifting climate will change our urban environment. Community-based organizations in Albany Park, Little Village, UIC, Washington Park, and West Garfield Park shape how the Garden project draws participants into an understanding of how environmental changes will affect them directly.

Filled with diverse Midwestern plants and constructed with reclaimed materials, the fleet of planters are the center of community-based activities, walks, and conversations considering the coming climate-related effects on Chicago. Garden for a Changing Climate programming will take place from April through August 2018 on UIC’s campus and across four Chicago neighborhoods. 

At its heart Garden for a Changing Climate asks participants to consider our relationship to a changing climate and asks: What does climate change mean to the lives we live here in our city? How will the lives of humans, plants, animals, insects, and other species change or be altered? What unexpected opportunities to restructure a more just world may be provided with these changes? What are we hopeful about in re-shaping our futures? Garden for a Changing Climate aims to encourage citizen science and bring new sense-based awareness to the oftentimes imperceptible issue of climate change. Reconnecting our sensitivities with nature’s shifts in time and space can help us understand the new paths being made in this quickly changing world—and give us a compass by which to chart our own way forward, together.

In addition to events accompanying the Garden planters, local residents are featured, alongside scientists and naturalists, in a documentary video by filmmaker Nellie Kluz that maps out, in clear and engaging ways, the impact of the ecozone shift and the effects of climate change in the city of Chicago—from human health impacts to new plant environments, from extreme weather conditions to housing instability.