Discover the tree-inspired art installation taking root in Broadmead

Take a look at the new art installation being installed in Broadmead this weekend, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of urban tree cover in Bristol

This weekend will see the start of a huge, immersive tree-inspired art installation taking over Broadmead for the next couple of weeks.

From 19-30 August, a free-to-attend installation labelled Overstory will be in situ in the Bristol shopping quarter, brought to us by leading contemporary artists Ivan Morison and Heather Peak.

Brought to Bristol by The Natural History Consortium, the charity behind the city’s Festival of Nature, Overstory is part of the first headline cultural project for 2022/23 from Bristol’s City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme.

The artists were inspired by native trees across Bristol and are aiming to use the installation and project to highlight the importance of urban tree cover in alignment with Bristol’s tree planting strategy to expand the city’s tree canopy by 2050.

So, what exactly can people expect from the installation? A pair of suspended structures featuring microscopic imagery of trees, Overstory will hang above Broadmead for two weeks.

The artists were inspired by native trees across Bristol and are aiming to use the installation and project to highlight the importance of urban tree cover

Immersing visitors into the microscopic world of trees to celebrate and consider how they are folded into our lives through their presence around us, the artwork will represent their functions within our shared ecosystems.

It will also work to draw upon the stories they tell, and the role we can all play in creating and protecting natural spaces in our cities.

Visitors to the installation can expect to see images of bright, microscopic cellular tree systems, and the artwork comprises two geometric zig-zag canopies in the sky, as well.

The design blends vibrant shapes of the microscopic imagery with sharp, repeating folded lines, creating views that gradually change as the art is viewed from the ground below.

The two artworks, both 65 m 2 will be installed eight metres above ground at either end of Broadmead in the heart of Bristol.

In collaboration with the Natural History Consortium, visitors will get the chance to take part in a trail

The contemporary artwork will, then, temporarily transform Broadmead, with visitors invited to enjoy the installation, alongside experiencing a programme of engaging, fun and free activities involving art and nature.

And the title, Overstory? Overstory’s title is inspired by the 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winning novel by ecological author Richard Powers, focusing on the deep importance of trees and the fight to preserve them.

What’s particularly lovely for Bristol locals is that there is a strong link to nature and trees that you may have yourselves come across in the city. The first chosen tree inspiring the creation of Overstory is a fairly anonymous Lime, buried deep near the back of Arnos Vale Cemetery.

It sits on a muddy path, featuring an informal archway through its foliage, created by people pushing past. This Victorian cemetery was saved by the community who now care for and protect it, in a very Bristolian way, allowing people to enjoy its peculiar charms for free.

The second tree is the commemorative Oak that sits at the heart of Sea Mills Estate, planted over 100 years ago. The estate was one of the first to provide housing after the First World War, and a step towards the wider national introduction of social housing.

The Oak still stands in the same place on the green today, in the middle of a thriving, well-cared-for community.

Using microscopic images of and inspirations from these trees of Bristol, the installation will invite the public to look consciously at the trees around them. Hopefully, they may be surprised by what they see, and find new elements of nature that they are naturally drawn towards.

Throughout the installation, visitors to Broadmead can learn how to create, protect, and explore woodlands and forests in the region.

The art project will also hopefully inspire people to discover the local parks, wildlife reserves, and older neighbourhoods to experience the diversity of native trees around Bristol and the stories they tell about the city.