Ellie Irons, “Lawn (Re) Disturbance Laboratory”

A collaboration with seeds, time, and weeds


The Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory is an ongoing art-science experiment now in its fifth season. This iteration of Lawn Lab is presented in collaboration with NATURE Lab and the Sanctuary for Independent Media on Mohican land in what now is Troy, New York. The lawn is located on the Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail, a vibrant block in North Central Troy which is also home to Collard City Growers and NATURE Lab’s environmental education building, with its People’s Health Clinic and Water Justice Lab.

A project of the NEXT EPOCH SEED LIBRARY, it revolves around re-wilding interventions in institutional and residential lawns from seeds lying dormant in the soil. From plant-guided sculptures and community science workshops to unconventional approaches to data collection and presentation, the project offers multiple entry points through which to consider lawn habitats and their impacts on the communities—human and nonhuman—who live in and among them.

Established in March 2020 with six plots, this ongoing installation has grown into an “experimental unlawning” site hosting ten plots in the 2021 season, and is now morphing into a ribbon of urban meadow in 2022. This site also includes wild sunflower plants that are part of a civic science collaboration with the Land Institute, and the 2020 Salmon Creek Farm Seed Mix (#scfseedmix). At this site, Lawn Lab intervenes in a feral lawn that is recovering from being a parking lot, and still has asphalt embedded underneath it in many locations. Asphalt removal and recycling sessions have occurred repeatedly since 2020.

Ellie Irons

Ellie Irons

Ellie Irons is the NATURE Lab Community Science Educator and Lab Manager, where she helps develop and implement educational programming, events and workshops that span the breadth of NATURE Lab to our environmental campus/ living learning laboratory and the Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail.

Ellie Irons

Ellie Irons brings a background in eco-art, urban ecology, and education to this work, embracing NATURE Lab’s interdisciplinary mandate to integrate the arts, environmental science, and embodied learning in ways that strengthen the Sanctuary and our diverse community.

In her personal artistic practice, she Ellie works across media, from foraged watercolor paintings to un-lawning sculptures, revealing and strengthening connections between humans, plants, and land.

Ellie completed her PhD at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2021, researching forms of artistic practice that cultivate plant-human solidarity and ecosocial justice on land impacted by colonization, extraction, and urbanization. She is committed to deepening engagement between urban-dwelling humans and the air, water, soil, and living beings who sustain us, a mission she finds resonates deeply with the broader goals of NATURE Lab and the Sanctuary.

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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