• Art and Design
Combining Art & Environmental Sustainability: Exhibit by Eileen Ferara Next at the Hutchins Galleries

While many gardeners and groundskeepers spend countless hours and dollars to eradicate invasive species from their land, artist Eileen Ferara finds them fascinating. She focuses on these “real survivors” in her upcoming exhibit, “Uneasy Balance,” on display in Lawrenceville’s Hutchins Galleries November 27, 2023 – December 17, 2024. An opening reception with the artist will be held November 30 at 6:30 p.m.

The Hutchins Galleries are a home for the Lawrenceville School's permanent collection of art and a host for rotating exhibits of working, regional artists. They are located on the Lawrenceville School campus within The Hutchins Center, adjacent to the Gruss Center for Art and Design. The main entrance for the Hutchins Galleries is at the rear of the building and can be accessed during viewing hours.

The Hutchins Galleries are open on weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon and from 1- 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays, from 9 a.m.-noon. The Galleries will be closed November 17-26 and reopen November 27-December 16. On December 17-January 2, the Galleries will be closed for winter break, reopening January 3. The Galleries are also open by appointment – please email at hutchinsgalleries@lawrenceville.org to schedule.

Ferara is a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on the human relationship with the environment. Her work has been included in exhibits throughout the U.S. and is in the collections of the William Paterson Galleries, The King St. Stephens Museum (Hungary), Memorial Sloan Kettering, and many private collectors. In 2022, she received a Jersey City Arts and Culture Individual Artist Fellowship and a Puffin Foundation grant. She was an artist-in-residence at Fire Island National Seashore (N.Y.) and an Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation resident artist at Mana Contemporary (Jersey City, N.J.) Ferara recently discussed her work, her exhibit, and the partnership she’s developed with Lawrenceville’s Sustainability Council.

What inspired you to make nature such an integral part of your art?

For as long as I can remember, spending time in nature and noticing small things has fascinated me. Being outside in nature makes me feel like I am part of a bigger whole, and I often get my best ideas when walking in the local environment, even when the 'nature' is just weeds along a fence, or a tree-lined street. Concern for the future of our planet's habitats and changes to the Earth's environment caused by human activity has made the focus even more essential.

What led you to focus on invasive species for the pieces in “Uneasy Balance”?

I have had a fascination with invasives for a long time now. Plants and other organisms that are unwanted, yet can thrive in less than ideal conditions are real survivors. I think invasive species are a good place to consider our relationship to the environment as a whole. What makes a weed considered undesirable? Who decides which plants are desirable and which are weeds? How can we be good stewards of local plant habitats? Can humans help to maintain the native plant ecosystem? I even think we can draw parallels to how we treat each other, and how we plan for the future in our interactions with these plants. We can treat these organisms introduced from other places with a level of respect as we protect our habitats as a whole.

While walking on the Lawrenceville School grounds I saw many invasive plants that I am familiar with, including a row of Empress trees that are very well maintained and not 'invasive' at all where they are planted. One of the paper installations I am creating for this exhibit includes imagery of English ivy which was inspired by the strands of ivy that I saw growing up the tree trunks on one of the trails I walked on campus.

Why did you feel The Lawrenceville School was a good venue to share your work?

 The Lawrenceville School has a strong commitment to ecology, offering opportunities for students to work on the land, which perhaps traces back to its earliest days. There is a connection to the natural surroundings and it seems to me that there are many places on the campus where students can find inspiration from the natural world. It was fascinating to learn that Aldo Leopold (Class of 1905) attended the school for a time, and even back in the early 1900s was able to spend time in the woods developing his passion for ecology.

Also, the Hutchins Galleries are beautiful! The artwork that I have seen on my visits shows a commitment to the arts at the school as well, I'm looking forward to seeing my work installed in the spaces!

What do you hope viewers, specifically students, will learn from seeing your work?

Exploration is an essential part of my art making, both by immersing myself in nature, but also by using different materials and approaches when making my art. I hope the work will encourage them to explore - notice the natural world which is around them and appreciate that we are part of a bigger world and not necessarily the center of that world. I really think that most students already have a better understanding of this than many older people do.

Also, I would hope that my approach to materials in art making encourages the students to follow their own passions and be inventive. Lastly, I really want to have the opportunity to hear what the students think of my work, and any questions that they might have for me! 

Can you discuss the partnership you’re developing with our Lawrenceville’s Sustainability Council? How do you hope to help the student connect art with their interest in sustainability?

I'm really looking forward to working with the Sustainability Director (Steve Laubach) and Council and I love that the students are leading the way in our collaborative art project, and are making plans for collecting trash to turn into artistic treasures! Making art with unwanted items is a wonderful opportunity to consider the items we consume and the garbage we produce in a different way. These items have a built in history, and using them provides a chance to contemplate the history and use of our stuff. Maybe something that is destined for the waste stream ends up having a second life as a work of art? Working with found items has built in construction challenges too, and what the students collect will influence what can be made and how items are combined. It definitely promotes creative flexibility which can be applied to lots of different practices beyond art.

For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.