Tree Charter arts in residency: enter a forest of the imagination

Our cultural roots are entwined with those of trees. Since the earliest days of human history we have taken inspiration from trees and woods, seeking to capture their beauty and mystery in stories and art, and using the material they provide to innovate, create and express.

Some of the earliest known cave paintings are drawn with charcoal, no doubt by the light of the fire that produced it.

Now that many of us have no need to interact with trees in our daily life and increasing numbers live in towns and cities where the buildings loom higher than the street trees, our deep connection with our arboreal companions can feel somewhat buried beneath the pressures of work and the distractions of technology.

Although we may be separated from the sights and sounds of trees by our desks, cars and screens, their importance to our lives has not diminished. We still breath air that has been cleaned and oxygenated by trees, sit on wooden furniture in timber framed houses, and surround ourselves with designs inspired by trees and the wildlife they support. Tune in to the world around you and you’ll soon see the number of street names that reference trees and the number of company and school logos that use trees and leaves.

The campaign for a Tree Charter seeks to reconnect society to the trees and woods that offer so much but are currently overlooked, undervalued and under-protected. One of the 10 Principles that will underpin the new charter when it launches in November 2017 is that the cultural impact of trees should be celebrated. Trees should get the credit for the amount they have shaped society – and should be valued and protected accordingly.

Sign the Tree Charter to show you agree with the principles and stand up for trees

This Summer, arts and environment charity Common Ground have joined forces with us to make the cultural impact of trees in our lives visible and accessible. A unique map of the British Isles has been created by acclaimed illustrator Adam Dant to highlight key artworks and heritage sites across the UK and Ireland that provide an insight into the ways that trees and woods have influenced our lives. Wherever you live there is something nearby that opens a window into the rich seam of art and history that trees have created.

Trees and woods continue to inspire us today, and the trail includes eight art residencies that will take place over this Summer to create new work that explores our modern connections to trees and woods.

Turner Prize-winning architects Assemble will be creating a wooden interactive installation in the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral, painter Kurt Jackson is spending a year drawing and painting a windswept Cornish hawthorn, Harriet and Rob Fraser of The Long View in Cumbria are building drystone Treefolds around three significant trees, and in Northern Ireland, Christine Mackey is exploring the relationship between people and environment in Belvoir Wood near Belfast.

Scottish poet and artist Alec Finlay’s work focuses on two leading woodland regeneration projects in the Scottish Highlands, while Owen Griffiths investigates landscape history and myths in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. In Dorset, artist-architect Clementine Blackmore has designed a new outdoor community structure for a wildlife reserve owned by Dorset Wildlife Trust. The imaginative potential of trees is the main focus for James Webb, who is inviting a selection of experts to tell him what they see in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield.

A forest of imagination awaits the adventurous.

Check out the online map for details of temporary exhibitions and events across the UK