"Swale" Sculpture | Floating Food Forest - marymattinglystudio

"Swale" Sculpture | Floating Food Forest

As public art, Swale was intentionally provocative. It was a floating food forest on a reclaimed barge. It began because growing or picking food on New York’s public land has been illegal for almost a century. As floating island, Swale utilizes marine common law to be public and circumvent local public land laws.

Swale's edible landscape provided fresh free food for harvest. It functioned at the intersection of public art and service. As a floating food forest, Swale reinforces water as a commons and works toward fresh food as a commons too.

The idea for Swale came out of learning that in addition to over 100 acres of community garden space in NYC, the city cares for 30,000 acres of public parkland. Access to fresh food in NYC is limited and expensive. People visit Swale to pick edible perennial plants for free.

In 2017, due to a confluence of Swale and the strength and support of many community groups and stewards, NYC opened its first "foodway" in Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx! If there continues to be stewardship interest, they may build more.

In 2020, Swale closed due to the pandemic and is currently being rebuilt on a permanent vessel. The team is actively fundraising to re-launch in 2024.

Website Link: www.swalenyc.org

Link to the Limited Edition print fundraiser. Donate to Swale here: link to donate

Swale, 2016, Concrete Plant Park Bronx, photo RAVA FilmsSwale, 2016, Concrete Plant Park Bronx, photo by RAVA Films

A Floating Food Forest video by A Blade of Grass, 2016

Swale at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a floating food forest in NYCSwale at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a floating food forest in NYC

Swale at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a floating food forest in NYCSwale at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a floating food forest in NYC

CBS News documentary about Swale in 2017, interviewing Naseem Haamid from NY State's Summer Youth Employment Program


In 2018, Steve De Seve visits Swale with BRIC TV


During Swale's first year, news orgs help spread the word


Amanda McDonald Crowley films Swale's first celebration.


I grew up in an agricultural town outside of NYC where the drinking water was polluted. That framed my understanding of access to clean water as increasingly rare, but also strengthened my resolve that it is both right and responsibility that needs to be protected. So Swale came out of a personal need to connect with and rely upon New York's waterways and public land in order to better care for it, and by proximity, for each other. Swale has been a tool to advocate for policy change. Since marine common law is different from New York City's public land laws, Swale can pave a pathway to create public food in public space.

Organizations helped tell the story of Swale, a floating food forest that merges  art and imagination with food justice: 

NPR | New York Times | Washington Post | Art in America | Hyperallergic | New York Observer | Metro New York | Smithsonian | Brooklyn Based | PSFK | The Atlantic | Morning News USA | The Huffington Post | The Wall Street Journal | ABC1 | ABC2 | Art in America 2

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