Urban farming is a current and popular focus for many Boulderites. From the successful community garden project, to the Boulder County Farmers’ Market estimated to have an attendance of 360,000 per season, to the restaurants adopting the locavore movement, to backyard chicken farming, focus on local food production is a number one priority. The citizens of Boulder are propelled to natural living, outdoor activities such as, biking, hiking, skiing and now gardening and farming have become the latest path to follow. Not only in the Boulder community but nationwide dialogue has started about the ease in which a chicken coop can be maintained in a backyard urban environment. Is it a fad or possibly a trend that may eventually turn into more of an inconvenience than a sustainable way to provide food for your family? Or will urban farming completely change our built home landscapes–creating a country of micro farms and independently sustainable community members? Either way your ideological preferences lean, it certainly is an exciting investigation.
For many years artists and architects have explored the multiple dimensions of urban and rural environments. Two University of Colorado professors—Richard Saxton in the Art and Art History department and Rob Pyatt in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning have challenged their students to revisit the age old debate; can urban exist in the rural and can the rural exist in the urban. Two different and sophisticated projects ensued with the goal of functionality and community participation.
Professor Saxton’s class, “BASELINE GROUP” is a special topics seminar engaging fine art students—both graduate and undergraduate—in the processes of designing and implementing tangible large-scale projects. This class encourages students to develop work that is community-based, site-specific, as well as, using non-traditional media. This first installation, titled the “Chicken Shack Village” explores experiential activities with a hands-on workshop that were completed in collaboration with two visiting artists, Marjetica Potrc and Haiko Meijer from the Dutch design team Onix. This group of students amplified their goals through community engagement by studying area farms. The social, historical and geographical specificity of Boulder offers these young artists a unique opportunity to create unrepeatable works as well as offering complimentary educational programs for the general public to emphasize the project’s vitality through community participation. The future site of this project will be on an Eastern Colorado farm.
The city of Boulder holds a unique architectural perspective. Many citizens focus on the outdoor space surrounding their houses rather than the actual home in which they inhabit. Urban Hens, a Boulder-based organization, captures that idea and adds an educational perspective about healthy living and environmental responsibility with its goal of implementing a citywide backyard chicken coop movement. The Children, Youth and Environment Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder Going Local, and the Institute for Intentionally Sustainable Neighborhoods engaged University of Colorado College of Architecture and Urban Planning professor Rob Pyatt’s design and build class to complete the first model for the easy-to-build chicken coop kit for homeowners. This first structure explores ideas about “urban aesthetics” including; art, architecture, design and approaching theories about city, social space and public space.
In conjunction with the BASELINE GROUP’s “Chicken Shack Village” project the students in Professor Richard Saxton’s class have designed a symposium featuring two panel discussions. Beginning at 10am in BMoCA’s upstairs multipurpose space the students have invited a group of local farmers and gardeners that have adopted urban farming, followed by panel of students from the BASELINE GROUP class that will explain the process of building and installing the “Chicken Shack Village.” Speakers will address topics such as, the collaborative art process, raising chickens in the urban setting, building and maintaining coops, as well as local farming and gardening. The panel will conclude at noon.
Anne P. Cure, Farm Manager from Cure Organic Farm
Dudley Dorrell, Tree Farm Natural Foods
Dallas Gilbert, Manager of the Eastern Plains Natural Co-op
Eille Goldberg, Boulder resident, backyard chicken raiser
Jane McMahan, Boulder resident, backyard chicken raiser