Building back Somerville’s urban forest – Impact

Our goal was to get people to reflect on what trees mean to them to personalize the issue that we are presenting. We wanted to encourage people to reach out to the Urban Forestry Department to request a tree in their neighborhood.

Our audience was Somerville residents, as well as others who work, shop, visit, use public services in the city. We were focusing on pedestrians, as they are better able to engage with participatory sculpture.  In order to capture a range of Union Square visitors and capitalize on foot traffic, we exhibited the tree during Porchfest.

Approximately 100 people stopped to read the facts or read the sign on the tree skeleton. Initially, we allowed pedestrians to ask us what we were doing, but after a while, we asked them if they wanted to participate when they stopped to read.

At the same time, approximately 30 people just read the facts and kept walking, engaging with the project at a lower level of reading. While they did not reach the stage of hearing about the Urban Forestry Department, we heard several who began a conversation about trees after walking by. Finally, 32 people filled out leaves and added them to the tree.

Among those who stopped and participated, we asked if they had heard about the Urban Forestry Department and if they knew about the call-line. Only five people had heard about the Urban Forestry Department, and no one knew about the call line.

We found that most people relied on us to invite them to participate and walk them through the activity. A couple people stopped to ask us what we were doing or if they could participate, but no one asked for a bookmark (even though that was included in the instructions on the poster and available with markers on the tree). This suggests that we would likely need to rethink the design of the invitation/instructions if we wanted this to be an unsupervised sculpture.

Team: Yihang Sui, Scott Gilman, Haley Claire, Jay Dev, and Marc Exposito.