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A new site-specific art installation inspired by the landscape, history, and ecology of Appleton Farms will be opening at the Ipswich property on Earth Day, April 22. Using wood from 19th-century fences and metal salvaged from nearby construction sites and scrapyards, artist Jean Shin is creating sculptural perches for bobolinks and other birds that depend on grassland habitat, providing important structures for wildlife while exploring the intersections of human activity and the natural environment.

The work, called Perch, is the latest commission in the Trustees of Reservations’ Art & The Landscape series. 

“I am so grateful to curator Jessica Hong and the many passionate individuals working at The Trustees for collaborating with me at this deep level and entrusted me in taking this journey together,” Shin says. “Inspired by bobolinks and their long migration, the project has taught us how we can reciprocate nature’s bountiful gifts by offering a refuge for visitors passing through.”

Shin’s vision for Perch was influenced by conversations with Trustees’ ecologists, agroecologists, and farmers, and by her independent research into the fragility of bobolinks and their deep connection to the health of our ecosystems.

The wood used in the perches comes from wooden fences that were made from American Chestnut prior to its near extinction in North America due to an introduced blight. The tree-like structures Shin is creating will be strategically placed in the fields where bobolinks return annually. The perches and their locations were carefully considered to maximize their use by male bobolinks in their annual ritual to attract potential mates.

Photograph by Renee Gannon, The Trustees

Shin also worked with a local tree salvage team in Essex to transform dead and fallen trees on Appleton’s 1,000-acre property into a variety of platforms that will be placed at the edge of fields along walking paths. They will be placed in three locations where volunteers conduct an annual census of the bobolinks, creating spots where visitors can learn about the citizen science project as well as spaces for convening, reflection, and contemplation.

“Perch explores timely and timeless issues of our day and bringing this project to fruition with Jean Shin and our incredible collaborators is a testament to the power of the arts to convene, inspire, and even galvanize,” says Jessica Hong, guest curator for the installation.