The Tree of Life

In what used to be the Goffe Street Armory’s ladies’ powder room, artist Joe Fekieta had grown a tree for his show this weekend at City Wide Open Studios. He called it the tree of life, though its branches were bare.

It was up to visitors to give it leaves, one by one. First they had to write a promise on each leaf.

“You want to make a promise?” Fekieta said, inviting a few children into the room Saturday at the first of two days of exhibitions by more than 100 local artists in the Armory for the second of four CWOS weekend events. “You can! But if you make the promise, you have to keep the promise” — to be better to the planet in some way, no matter how large or small, serious or lighthearted.


Brian Slattery Photo
Fekieta, who has lived in the Hill for 32 years, has had the same room for CWOS for years. He made his piece because “the earth is under such assault,” he said. And “if the tree of life dies, then we all die.”

But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t room for fun. “You know, no one said, ‘I promise to help Santa Claus,’” he told another kid.

By then the number of leaves on the branches had grown. I promise to stay true to myself and follow my dreams, one read. I promise to use less toilet paper, read another. It was all fine by Fekieta.

Fekieta’s tree of life — inventive, engaging, and participatory — fit nicely with the “Game On!” theme of City Wide Open Studios this year. Its commissioned pieces were as much game as art. And in the Goffe Street Armory on Saturday and Sunday, all the artists together turned the enormous, imposing building into a playground for art.

Copyright: Joseph Fekieta 2017