River Project: The Bow

River Project: The Bow is a site-specific installation based on a site along the south side of the Bow River, to the west of Stoney Trail Bridge, in Calgary, Alberta.

The work began in the late summer of 2002 and will be completed, at the earliest, in the summer of 2003 with the planting of Douglas Fir and White Spruce seedlings by viewers who took a seedling home with them at the end of the gallery show as well as elementary school children invited to take care of a seedling.

The initial work began with the collecting of a few seed cones – Douglas Fir and White Spruce – while hiking along the Bow River at the end of August 2002. These cones were then dried out in the studio and the seeds placed into stratification – wintering – in the refrigerator for six weeks. 

Towards the end of October the seeds were slowly brought to room temperature to ready them for germination and planting. The bottoms of the small ‘greenhouses’ hold stones collected along the bank of the Bow River as well as river water to provide condensation for the seedlings without drowning them.

The seeds are held in peat pellets within peat pots that will allow for easy planting of the seedlings. Viable seeds germinated 7 to 10 days after planting. From the seeds collected approximately 80 seeds germinated, there is no guarantee how many of these will survive long enough to be planted outdoors.

While researching this project it was discovered that one single cone can hold up to 50 seeds and viable seeds come from trees that are 20+ years old, with seed crops occuring every seven years. Collected seeds should be planted within 100 miles of their collection site as there are slight genetic modifications from area to area.

Traditionally Douglas Fir and White Spruce trees have been used to make medicine, glue, canoe frames, paddles, snowshoes and root baskets. Today we primarily use them to make lumber.

The planting aspect of this installation speaks of our deep rooted connection to the land and is a small gesture of honouring the site and the trees themselves, while encouraging viewers to actively participate in the show by watering the seedlings with the spray bottles provided and to then take a seedling home to then plant themselves.

Environmental Design Gallery, 
University of Calgary, November 2002