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A new immersive art experience grows just off the path at Bernheim

A large diamond-shaped, wooden object appears to be suspended between two trees. Nikki Pike, the artist who created the structure, stands to the right of the object.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
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Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Nikki Pike's installation "Chrysalis" is made of tulip poplar and ash bark.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is launching a new art program that hopes to get visitors a bit deeper in the environment.

L+A+N+D: an experience of discovery will feature large-scale installations deeper into Bernheim’s 16,000 acres of green space.

The letters stand for landscape, art, nature, and design.

“It will annually celebrate the best designs for immersive outdoor installations on a grand scale that will spark imaginations and curiosities and a deeper understanding and an appreciation to the natural world,” said Bernheim arts in nature curator Jenny Zeller.

Zeller said L+A+N+D is an expansion of the arboretum’s current art program, which includes the artists in residence program and forest giant sculptures.

Part of Bernheim’s mission is to get people into, exploring and understanding nature. Executive director Mark Wourms said the new artworks will help achieve this.

“As a scientist, I will tell you that the arts are a way that we connect people differently than we do with the facts and figures of the world that I look at,” Wourms said. “Artists have just these incredible observations and bring those observations to people in the most amazing ways.”

To kick off the L+A+N+D experience, Bernheim staff chose two artists to complete installations. British artist Stuart Ian Frost will arrive in the fall to place his piece.

Nikki Pike’s work “Chrysalis” is now installed and on display.

“What I make is forms that are based on pure shapes, like a sphere, or a cube or a diamond. And then they have a bark, coating or skin,” Pike said. “We find [shapes] everywhere, and we love them. But when you put them together, something magical happens.”

Pike said Bernheim staff told her they wanted to create a piece bigger than anything she had ever made.

That assignment became a 16-foot-long object made of tulip poplar and ash bark.

“I often like to use species of bark that point to some of the changes we're seeing in nature and sort of invites us to take responsibility for protecting nature, and how do we want to engage with nature,” Pike said.

Illuminating the connections between arts and nature is a key part of Bernheim’s arts programming.

“Arts and sciences were joined at the hip, for most of our human evolution,” Wourms said. “Arts have always told the story of humans' relationship with nature, and that is what science does as well.”

Wourms said that while they might be artificially separated today, they’ve always worked together.

Pike agreed.

“I see the artists' studio the same as the scientists' laboratories,” Pike said. “We have some tools, we're on the way, but we don't exactly know what we're doing and either one, but there's a lot of passion.”

She said that the connection between the two is curiosity and wanting to learn more about our world.

While the name of her piece guides people's ideas, she hopes they go on a journey of discovery when they come across the giant piece hovering in Berheim’s Guerilla Hollow area.

“It's an opportunity, it's an experience, but mystery and curiosity and then you will have to, like do a little scavenger hunt to find it,” Pike said.

Artist proposals will be accepted through Sept. 5.

“We'll be inviting architects, landscape architects, designers, creators of all kinds…to submit proposals that address biodiversity, conservation, sustainability, climate change, as well as humans' connection to the natural world and just beauty found in the landscape,” Zeller said.

Bernheim plans to host a grand opening event once all the pieces have been installed in Summer 2024.

This story has been updated with new photos.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.