NY Daily News, 05/24/12
Artist nurtures West Farms trees

By Tanyanika Samuels | web link

Every Friday, Jason Eisner roams the streets of West Farms looking for trees in distress - and he’s turning heads.

That’s mostly because the 40-year old artist dresses like a cowboy ranger and totes around imitation surveying equipment. “People look twice when they see me,” Eisner laughed. “I’m sure people are wondering ‘Who is this bearded freak and what’s he doing to that tree?’” 

What he’s doing is part community service, part performance art.

Eisner spends half the day clearing away weeds and debris from trees and collecting stories of his interactions with residents along the way for his blog project, “J & West Farms: Bronx.”

“There's a lot of fear about the Bronx. People really don't know what it’s really like,” said Eisner, of Brooklyn. “This is my way of understanding this area of the Bronx better, without the filter of all the prejudices.”

Eisner’s blog will be part of the Bronx River Art Center’s “Virtual Monumental” walking tour in June. Using iPads and quick response (QR) codes, participants will be able to learn about various art projects in West Farms.

“J & West Farms: Bronx” is a great community narrative, said the art center’s Chad Stayrook. “It really paints a really interesting picture of the characters of this area and who the people are,” Stayrook said.

Eisner did a similar project in Mott Haven as part of BRAC’s Shifting Communities exhibition series last fall. As part of the Brooklyn-based art collective J&J, Eisner helped build the series’ roundtable and weeded 25 trees in the neighborhood.

In April, Eisner shifted his focus to West Farms. His dealings with curious passersby are detailed in pictures, drawings and words in his blog,

“Overall, the reaction has been very positive,” Eisner said. “People are happy to see someone taking care of the trees. One guy even stopped traffic, honked at me and gave me the thumbs up. I thought that was great, and in a way, very touching.”

Eisner will continue ‘servicing’ trees through June.

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DIRECTIONS TO CENTER:  By Train: Take #2 or #5 to West Farms Square/East Tremont. Walk one block east to Bronx Street. By Bus: Take #'s B9, 21, 36, 40, 42, or Q44 to East Tremont and Boston Road. By Car: Take Bruckner Expressway to Sheridan Expressway, and exit at East Tremont Ave. Turn left at the traffic light one block down onto East Tremont. Turn left after one block onto Bronx St. (Cross Bronx Expressway) towards Rosedale Ave, then exit. Turn left onto Rosedale Ave, then take a left onto Tremont Ave. Drive four blocks to West Farms Square.

This program is made possible with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, including Council Members Eric Dinowitz, Althea Stevens, Kristy Marmorato and the Bronx Delegation. Additional support is from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, the NYS Council on the Arts with support from Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature. Foundation support is from Con Edison: The Power of Giving, The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, The Lincoln Fund, and private donors.

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