Do you have a cactus we could borrow?
The MN Cactus Conservation Facility // Medicine Lake
Mission Statement: To advance the appreciation of and respect for the local environment of Medicine Lake, and to engage the community in a conversation about sustainability, eco-friendly design and cactus.
The art shanty I propose will be a warm, dehumidified conservatory for dozens and dozens of cactus. Built to demonstrate how buildings can be sustainably and efficiently heated, the shanty will be a straw-bale construction. Thus, an inexpensive and common agricultural byproduct becomes a valuable structural element and effective insulator, protecting the cactus and their caretacker for the duration of the project.
I am in contact with an energy consultant and part-time eco-design devotee who is helping me strategize about the structural details. I hope also to engage the support of several manufacturers and use some cutting edge eco-friendly materials. Solar heating will provide most of my heat, while other systems will be in place to ensure that on cloudy days the temperature, and the health of the cactus, remains constant. The facility will include a loft for the caretaker (me) to sleep in, and a small to serve as a drawing studio. The majority of the floor space will be occupied be the plants.
Why the cactus? I am from New Mexico where the main environmental issue is water management. Here in Minnesota one of the big issues is how to heat one's home. This shanty will combine and contrast two example respective solutions. Landscaping in NM with native, drought tolerate plants helps ease the burden placed on water systems. Building structures to cope with MN winters will ease the strain placed on energy systems and pocketbooks. The incongruity of cactus on a frozen lake mirrors that of swimming pools in Nevada or two-acre lawns in Arizona, which are accepted without thought. This project is also about sharing where I am from with the Minnesotans I will meet on the Lake this winter. The cactus are like me, transplanted into new, northern soil.
Viewers to my shanty will be invited to learn both how the structure is built and heated and about the cactus housed inside. In addition to researching and building a sustainably heated shanty, I will educate myself about cactus so i can answer visitors' questions knowledgably. My role as caretaker will involve living in the conservatory with the cactus as much as I can. In between visitors I will complete a series of detailed scientific drawing of my specimens, perhaps to be bartered into the sub-economy of artists or to visitors. I also plan to set up a relationship with the people who lend me their cactus where I will deliver drawings of their own cactus to them in return for the loan.
I recognize that building a cactus shack on a frozen lake is essentially a silly action and it will be carried out with a light heart. My goal is not to preach to others, but to myself learn a few things and engage as many people as possible about these ideas. To share a few surreal moments of a minnesota winter spent with cactus is a bonus.
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Jack Shack Team