This is the beginning of a participatory art project, using community-sourced symbols to create a visual language that tells of our relationship to local ecology. Folk art is derivative of direct experience with the landscape. Specific adaptations to local environments give rise to unique forms of creative expression, born out of necessity. The oldest known form of magic, pictographs were used to appeal to nature in an effort to obtain some form of control. In the current era, however, it is nature that requires our healing and protection through re-enchanting our relationship with her.


Traditional folk arts in America are separated from the daily pragmatism that they originated in – robbing them of life. In museums, we categorize artifacts into orderly systems of taxonomy, mothballing folklore in an effort to preserve it. We need the context that forgotten folk practices provide to ground our energies in the present. Contemporary folk arts can help us by re- growing connective tissues that help us to mobilize around the great work of healing social wounds and protecting ecosystems.


A strictly empirical worldview has produced a psychic gap between our lifestyles, the places we inhabit and the habitat we are destroying. Since much of the world’s population is part of some kind of diaspora, how do we heal our relationship with lands that are not ancestral, that may have been taken by force or that we were forced to occupy? Coming together around conservation efforts – both ecological and cultural – can serve to root us both in place and time.


What’s YOUR Sign?

Draw a simple picture that represents your connection to nature in our local setting. Use only combinations of point, line and arc. How does this symbol or pictograph tell the story of how you relate to this landscape? Does the image you drew resemble patterns from decorative arts in your family traditions – like those used in textiles, ceramics, carving or other functional crafts? Are there common threads between these two examples?


Submit images and answers to these questions via email at to be included in an experimental folk art zine being compiled as part of a residency project at The Future Minneapolis this Fall. Please note that your drawings will be edited (sized to fit, repeated or rotated) as part of the process, but that text will remain unaltered. To be credited in the zine, give your name. To receive a digital copy of the project once completed, include the best email to send it to.


Thank you for your invaluable input on this project, some examples of the finished product are included here. Each image started with one simple glyph, and was turned, repeated and rotated to create a kind of mandala. Results will vary according to inputs. This project is intended to support healing in our communities and to protect local ecology from negligent use.

To stay informed on this project, visit or follow us on Instagram @NestandTessellate  


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