ACRE by Anne Peabody

By Jenny Zeller

Left: Photograph of devastated land ‐ now Bernheim Forest ‐ in Clermont, Kentucky before it was purchased in 1929. Photo credit: Archives and Special Collections Berea College. Right: Modern day photo of a regional iron and ore furnace that once burned ‘an acre of trees a day’ for industry.

“An acre or more of old growth forest was felled every day to supply the furnaces at Bullitt Lick alone.”

~ from Nature’s Notebook: Salt vs. the Forest

By Anne Peabody

ACRE was conceived during my 2021 artist residency at Bernheim after I learned that in 1929 its founder Isaac Wolfe Bernheim bought the (then) 12,000+ acre property at a significantly reduced price because the old-growth woods had been clear cut “an acre a day” to fuel the iron and salt furnaces in the area. Through vision, forethought and time, I.W. Bernhiem’s belief in the resiliency of nature has come to fruition as this originally decimated land has transformed into a beautiful, biodiverse research forest and nature preserve that annually draws over 350,000 visitors from around the globe.

After learning about Bernheim’s transformation, I realized that neither I, nor anyone I asked, had a concept of the size of an acre. How many steps it would take to walk across, how many trees and other plant and animal species could grow on it, how much oxygen it could produce, or how much water could it contain, in comparison to one of the acre-sized distribution centers or parking lots surrounding the boundaries of Bernheim. As commercial and housing developments threaten Bernheim and other wild spaces, knowledge of this becomes more critical.

The piece I propose to leave at Bernheim is entitled ACRE, a planting of redbud trees, that delineate an acre boundary, in memory of the forest that was previously devastated by industry at an acre a day. A prairie-garden underplanting would further mark the space and add changing seasonal texture, color, and habitat for hundreds of animal and insect species.

Installed in the fall of 2023, ACRE is a long-term commitment that will be at the peak of its colorful display in time for 2029, the 100th anniversary of Isaac Wolfe Bernheim’s visionary donation to the people of Kentucky.


Support ACRE

The Artist in Residence program has attracted artists from around the world who seek to use Bernheim as their inspiration. Established in 1980, this internationally renowned program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site-specific work inspired by their total immersion experience in the natural environment. Work created through the program allows our visitors to connect with nature in new and exciting ways.

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