Seventeen Hundred Seeds: Cultivating Community As Art

by Margaret Meehan June 2, 2012

May 19th reception for Dallas public art project Seventeen Hundred Seeds. Photo credit: Robert Hamilton.

This past Saturday independent curator Cynthia Mulcahy and artist Robert Hamilton had a public picnic and reception to celebrate the planting and subsequent bloom of seventeen hundred Aztec Gold sunflower seeds in a vacant, 1.6 acre lot in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Juan Cano, 1700 Seeds farm crew. Photo credit: Robert Hamilton.

Since last March Mulcahy, Hamilton, a hardworking crew of 8, and a curious community of onlookers have watched as the land was tilled, seeds were planted and watered, and sprouts emerged. Each one growing five to seven feet with plentiful eleven-inch flower heads facing the sun. By mid-May the result was a golden field filled with not only flowers but neighbors getting to know each other in a once empty urban lot. All of this was the intended and thankful result of a collaborative spring Mulcahy termed “farming as street theater”.

Artist Robert Hamilton watering the crop.

Just like her last project, Square Dance: A Community Project, which she worked on with fellow “art as social practice” organizer Leila Grothe at the Audubon Center in South Dallas last year, this project, Seventeen Hundred Seeds places emphasis on the social elements of a community coming together to notice the potential within. The gathering of people to not only connect with nature but each other is the “art” and I believe the ultimate successful of both of these projects.

Public art project Square Dance: A Community Project at Trinity River Audubon Center. 2011. Curated by Leila Grothe and Cynthia Mulcahy. Photo credit: Stephen A. Masker.

Seventeen Hundred Seeds in full bloom inside the city of Dallas. Photo credit: Robert Hamilton.

Amazing indeed, yes.  And an attempt at beauty. The intersection of a man with the city, the abruptly reformed, the newly appropriated public space, the city as art.

Let The Great World Spin p.102

This is a small section lifted from Colum McCann’s wonderful novel Let The Great World Spin. I’ve started reading it as I made my way from Austin to Seattle yesterday. It’s the description of a woman trying to digest the events of a day in NYC, 1974 when Philippe Petit walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers. While this novel does not have an obvious connection to the public art project Seventeen Hundred Seeds, I believe and hope that everyone lucky enough to see the rows and rows of glorious Aztec Gold sunflowers temporarily residing at 715 W. Davis thought too, “Amazing indeed, yes!”.

Young supporters enjoying the field and festivities. Photo credit: Robert Hamilton.

Seventeen Hundred Seeds remains on view through June and is free and open to the public. More images and information can be found here.


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DeeDee Bott June 4, 2012 - 11:26

Beautiful follow up to Chapman Kelley’s Wildflower Art in Dallas and Chicago in the 1980s until now. Glad to see this tradition and Chapman’s influence continues. Cheers!

Rebecca J. Hopp June 4, 2012 - 17:50

Ag is Art! Great article and a great project! Do either Cynthia Mulcahy or Robert Hamilton have any type of ag background?

Thanks for sharing this great community art project.


jim sherman June 16, 2012 - 09:54

Two notes – dried sunflower heads (just clip after they have dried in the field) suspened in a simple macramee “bra” is a great bio-degradable bird feeder. Also, field-dried sunflower stalks are a fantastic feedstock for crafts-paper production – just need a blender and some old silkscreen frames to dry the pulp.


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