Artist Katie Holten Takes All the Trees, Puts ‘Em in a Tree Museum

Sure, a tree grows in Brooklyn, but in the Bronx, they talk—one in the voice of starchitect Daniel Libeskind. Or at least they will beginning this Sunday, when artist Katie Holten transforms the Bronx’s Grand Concourse into a “tree museum” as part of a year-long centennial celebration of the thoroughfare designed by Louis Risse. Commissioned by local organizations including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Holten’s Tree Museum will consist of 100 “talking” trees along the four-and-a-half-mile path: each will be designated with a unique phone number that passersby can dial to hear a recorded voice of Bronx history. Jim Dwyer previewed the leafy voices in a recent New York Times article:

Tree No. 39, a honey locust at Marcy Place, will feature Jose Ortiz of the percussion group BombaYo. At another honey locust, No. 52, at 175th Street, Lurry Boyd, who grows peaches and strawberries in a community garden, will narrate. In Poe Park, a London plane tree (No. 75) will connect listeners to the story of the park, a former apple orchard that is now home to a cottage where Edgar Allan Poe lived. People often danced around the park’s bandstand at night, as Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian, tells it, including two sisters named Clooney. One of them was the singer Rosemary Clooney, aunt of the actor George Clooney.

As for Libeskind, he’ll speak for tree number 97, a hawthorn that stands at the Concourse’s northern end. “As a teenager, I was an immigrant to the Bronx and the Grand Concourse was my iconic street,” says Libeskind. “Street of extraordinary trees, a kind of boulevard that I only dreamt of, because it reminded me of Europe.” No word as to whether tree number 97 will be fitted with distinctive rectangular-framed eyeglasses, but our fingers are crossed.