Portland artist and illustrator Daniel Minter has received a $75,000 award from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation to support artists who are Black, Indigenous and people of color to create projects in collaboration with other presenters.

Minter will work with the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee to create a new and lasting piece of work based around ash trees that are being attacked by the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that also is decimating ash trees in Maine. The 40-acre sculpture garden includes a forest with ash trees.

Daniel Minter Photo by C. Daniel Dawson, courtesy of Indigo Arts Alliance

Minter will select a tall tree that has been invaded by the ash borer, strip the tree of its branches and carve those branches into small pieces of various shapes. He will string them together like beads, and hang them from the tree. He will create enough blocks for visitors to work with so they can make their own strings of beads, and he hopes wood carvers will feel inspired to carve their own pieces so the project continues as long as it resonates with people.

It’s also about honoring the legacy of the trees.

“It seemed not right to cut them down and discard them, when they had been part of the artistic environment. I felt we could acknowledge that a lot has happened to these trees and acknowledge what is happening to them,” Minter said.

He conceived the idea of honoring the dead and dying trees before the pandemic. But the idea became more focused and firm in his mind as the pandemic claimed more victims.

“We don’t just discard the ones we have lost. We acknowledge them, we learn from them and we carry their memory forward,” he said. “These pieces will grow, as more people visit.”

Minter was among four artists to receive $75,000 to produce and present new work, with at least $25,000 going directly to the artist as a stipend. The others are Sydney Chatman, a writer and director who will collaborate with the Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago; the Brooklyn-based artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed, who will present work in the 2022 FRONT International in Cleveland; and the multidisciplinary artist and architect Santiago X, a member of the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana and the Chamorro people of Guam, who will partner with the Chicago Public Art Group.

“Each year, the Joyce Foundation seeks to award projects that are visionary in scope and are uniquely rooted in their respective communities,” Mia Khimm, the director of the Joyce Foundation’s culture program, said in a statement. “Given the collective trauma of the global pandemic and the fight for racial justice in the U.S., the applications reflected similar preoccupations.”

Minter will go to Milwaukee in June to begin the project. In addition to selecting trees and preparing branches, he will teach workshops. He anticipates returning to the sculpture garden throughout this year and into 2022. He visited the sculpture garden a few years ago to see an exhibition by the artist Fo Wilson.

“The forest became a thing I wanted to respond to,” he said.

He plans to choose a tall tree to begin his project.

“I will choose the strongest, more so than the location. I will choose one that is strongest, that has the most height. Its legacy will live on.”

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