“Fish Trap”, an artist interpretation of a Coast Salish fish trap, by Jennifer Lawrence Bennett. Photos: Jefferson Mok


On view through October 31, 2016, Tacoma Food Forest: Art, Edibles + Sustainable Culture is an outdoor art exhibit that celebrates the extraordinary wild space and “food forest” of Swan Creek Park in Tacoma. This 373-acre forest, five minutes from downtown, is a pristine environment where towering evergreens and gnarly madronas overlook a deep canyon with an active salmon stream, and a patchwork of golden meadows. This event presents the work of 13 regional artists/teams whose environmentally-sensitive sculptures and installations interact with the landscape and highlight the critical importance of clean water, re-localized food production and sustainable habitat for humans, wildlife and fish.


Stones encircle a “tree guild” of complementary plants at the food forest.


Master gardener Renee Meschi inspects a mulberry tree.

Inside Swan Creek Park, explore the fascinating world of the food forest, a visionary idea rooted in both modern and age-old agricultural practices. Here, at the edge of a wilderness, principles of permaculture (a holistic system of traditional and sustainable growing techniques that work in harmony with the Earth’s processes), are applied to a semi-wild, one-acre test garden that blends almost indistinguishably into the margins of the forest. Thanks to a battalion of dedicated volunteers knowledgeable in areas from landscaping, composting and rain harvesting to non-toxic pest control, edible plants are beginning to take hold in one of the country’s first free-to-the-public, food-bearing woodlands. When the plants mature, visitors will be able to nibble a variety of berries, nuts, leafy greens, fruits, even mushrooms.

(Above) Mock “Mushrooms” by artist Acataphasia Grey. Photos: Jefferson Mok



Vortex by Terri Placentia and SOTA students. Courtesy photo

Follow “edible pathways” dotted with ancient apple trees and blackberries into the woods where unique artworks wait to be discovered. You can tour the park by foot, or by mountain bike along 50 acres of well-groomed trails. Road cyclists can ride long-abandoned asphalt roads that give the park a unique ghost-town air (there once were World War II-era houses planted where trees now stand). During the show’s 2-month run, several artworks made from natural and reclaimed materials will be left to dissolve back into the land.

Jennifer Bennett
 • Gabriel Brown • 
Kate Cendejas • 
Elizabeth Gahan
 • Acataphasia Grey
 • Anthony Kosnjek • 
Tim + April Norris
 • Nicholas Nyland
 • Deanna Pindell
Terri Placentia + School of the Arts
 • Miranda Pollitz • Carlos Taylor-Swanson • 
Lisa Kinoshita, Curator


“70-80 Days”, a kids’ project by Kate Cendejas. The name refers to the time it takes for carrots to mature. Photo: Lisa Kinoshita

Nestled between the food forest and the park entrance is Swan Creek Community Garden, Tacoma’s largest p-patch serving the diverse community of the Eastside. Here, gardeners from countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Ukraine and Moldavia grow a spectacular bounty of food (this plot is open to resident gardeners only; please don’t pick the produce).

Enjoy your tour of Swan Creek Food Forest, the park and the community garden!


Swan Creek Community Garden is adjacent to the Food Forest.

Directions can be printed out here. Please note: unfortunately, these artworks have been exposed to vandalism, and they are subject to the elements. Not all pieces may be present or recognizable over time. The best way to the park is from Portland Ave. and East 44th St; enter through the entrance to the Salishan community and drive about a 1/2 mile east on East 44th until you reach East Roosevelt. Take a left at the “T” and drive 2 blocks to East 42nd; take a right and you’ll be in the parking lot. There is one art installation of giant carrots near the picnic tables to the left of the gazebo. The food forest and the rest of the artworks are off to the right of the community garden. Everything is spread out here – please print out the directions above for guidance.


A “manfungus” of recycled cardboard and garbage by Gabriel Brown. Photo: Lisa Kinoshita

Swan Creek Park is owned by Metro Parks Tacoma and Pierce County. With improvements underway, a once-neglected and unused area is becoming a pilot of sustainable culture. Learn more about the park in this excellent article from the Tacoma News Tribune: “Swan Creek becoming Tacoma’s Next Point Defiance”.

This event is made possible with support from a Make A Splash Grant from Tacoma Environmental Services, and Metro Parks.

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