The Tree Museum is an outdoor public art project created by Irish artist Katie Holten to commemorate the centennial of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The Museum’s purpose is to celebrate the diverse ecosystems and communities of the Concourse, with trees as storytellers.
The outdoor museum is comprised of one hundred designated trees scattered along the Grand Concourse. Circular placards embedded in the sidewalk dial-in number to listen to a stories about the Bronx, the trees or the Concourse. These prerecorded segments are narrated by current and former Bronx residents from all walks of life.
After a quick stop in the Bronx Museum to obtain a map of the Tree Museum, Tree #31 was the first tree I encountered. I called the number as instructed on the sidewalk marker, and heard about two seconds of the recording before a bus pulled up to the bus stop a few feet away from the tree, making it pretty much impossible to hear the audio. And there was no rewind function, so I had to redial the number! I unraveled my bluetooth headset in the hope that it would enable me to decipher the audio, but with pretty heavy traffic on Grand Concourse that evening, my efforts were pretty much in vain, so I decided to take a picture of the tree and listen to the recording at home.
I checked out about ten of the trees, and crossed Grand Concourse a number of times – which, at rush hour, felt a bit like crossing a highway.
The sound quality of the phone, coupled with the number of daytime minutes used in this type of activity made me wonder why a podcast wasn’t available. (Update: Looks like the Tree Museum is now offering a handful of downloadable audio files here.)
While I felt that celebrating Grand Concourse through the perspectives of its current and past residents is the kind of idea that was right on the money, the experience of visiting the Tree Museum was a little unwieldier than I had hoped.