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LIBERTEA was created for the 2017 Free City: Art and Ecology festival, hosted by Flint Public Art Project. In its infancy, Free City was an urban interventionist public art festival, held annually in a former Chevrolet manufacturing site turned brownfield in Flint, Michigan, known as Chevy in the Hole.

 

Following the Flint Water Crisis, I researched the long term effects of lead poisoning on the body and blended an iced herbal tea with recommendations from a number of practicing herbalists. It featured three plants, all of which can be easily foraged or cultivated by a novice gardener: Ground Ivy, Rosemary, and Lemonbalm.

 

The tea was served to festival goers alongside a living sculpture created with the help of Andy Ray that featured the three plants cascading from a freestanding medicine cabinet. Additionally, viewers were invited to attend live screen printing demonstrations where they could print and take their own free poster featuring drawings of the plants.

 

Leery to position myself as an herbal expert or healthcare practitioner, I initiated conversations simply by asking passerby, “Do you want to try some tea?” The viewer’s curiosity determined the direction of the interaction — sometimes we talked politics, sometimes we talked about getting free, sometimes we talked about medicinal plant properties, sometimes we just clarified that no, it wasn’t “special tea.” We grieved. We were angry. We empowered each other to practice care. We acknowledged the magic of the land to provide relief.

To read more about the project, visit my Substack.

Photos of LIBERTEA by Lindsay Decker, courtesy of Flint Public Art Project

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