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News August 2012

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Modern Landscapes at Risk: Athena Tacha’s Green Acres in Trenton

August 27, 2012

The current controversy surrounding the removal and replacement of Athena Tacha’s 1987 architectural sculpture entitled Green Acres in Trenton, NJ underscores the fragility of our Modern cultural landscapes and has engendered considerable discussion and debate. Tacha’s site-specific work was commissioned under the Public Building Arts Inclusion Act by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to complement its new headquarters, and installed in a quiet courtyard in downtown Trenton. Green Acres comprises a combination of architectural and landscape features, including curved steps, planters, and polished green granite paving blocks with photographs of endangered New Jersey plants and wildlife sandblasted onto their surface. It is one of more than 40 similar commissions completed by Tacha nationwide, and is part of an important collection of early, socially conscious “land art” that, due to physical limitations, Tacha is no longer able to produce. The state has determined that the work is unsafe and is already planning its replacement with a new rain garden. As is often the case, part of the reason for its “unsafe” condition is neglected maintenance. Ironically, offices of the NJ State Historic Preservation Office are adjacent to the Green Acres courtyard. 

The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Preservation NJ and ArtPride NJ are spearheading efforts to stop the demolition, which one DEP official recently tagged “a done deal.” The groups have launched a petition to NJ government officials and proposed an alternative site for DEP’s rain garden. Press coverage and support for preserving Green Acres has been growing quickly. For the full story read the blog post by Charles Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation—and sign the petition.

Green Acres architectural landscape, Athena Tacha, 1987, Treton, NJ. photos courtesy: Athena Tacha and The Cultural Landscape Foundation