Sanctuary Eco Art Trail

This project is dedicated to celebrating the sacred Mohican soils we are honored to tend. Embedding art, ancestral history, culture and Indigenous artist presentations, we walk on sacred ground, engage in our rich local ecology, struggle for environmental justice and connect with a wider audience.

The Sanctuary Eco Art Trail is located on one long-neglected block in North Central Troy, near the Northern tip of the Mahicantuck (Hudson) River Estuary—just a few hundred feet from Federal Lock One of the historic Erie Canal and near sacred burial grounds of the ancient village Unawhat’s Castle  of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community of the Mohicans. The Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe were forcibly removed from their home on the Mahicantuck, and are now located in Bowler Wisconsin (Dunn, 2009).  They are in partnership on this project, which features Stockbridge-Munsee as well as other Indigenous artists and musicians,  eco-artists and bio-artists, storytellers and muralists, connecting Indigenous wisdom to visions for a future of healing and reparations.

Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohicans logo

More about the project

The National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” Creative Place-making Program has funded The Sanctuary for Independent Media’s “Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail” to support the commissioning, engagement, creation, and installation of multimedia artworks and experiences along one city block in Troy, concluding in June of 2024.

For the past two decades, the Sanctuary has developed infrastructure, consciously critiquing gentrification and cultural tourism through building platforms for long standing creative alliances. With an earlier NEA Our Town grant a decade ago, the Sanctuary collaborated with community to build the Freedom Square Art Stage.

Our new NEA Our Town grant supports creation of the “Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail,” connecting Indigenous legacy to an urban nature walk on 6th Avenue. The Eco-Art Trail weaves a journey from Freedom Square on 101st St south to our newest community platform, NATURE Lab (with Citizen Science Laboratory and People’s Health Sanctuary) and on our growing permaculture forest reaching to Glen St.

The “Medicinal Herbs Eco-Art Garden,” a living sculpture featuring four powerful plant allies growing among functional sculptural elements, includes clay pot irrigation and cut metal way-finding sign posts: a place for healing and workshops centering Indigenous sacred interactions with living land and medicinal properties of plants. With focus on Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican medicinal traditions, included plants–mugwort/, joe-pye weed/Pkuwiimakw, yarrow/Wtakiipakw, and bee balm/Wteehaskwal–have inter-tribal and cross-cultural resonance (Cook, 2015). Created by eco-artists Azure Keahi and Ellie Irons, the sculpture’s quadrant design, with four growing beds arranged in a circle ringed by ollas (clay pots), provides focal point for a series of plant and land-centric gatherings that honor Indigenous pasts and presents on this land as we dream and build towards Indigenous futures.

Along the block, “A Sturgeon’s Purpose” art kiosks features a block-wide series of storytelling panels depicting struggles along toxic shores, with artist/poet D. Colin, in collaboration with diverse community members and activities at the Fish Market a few blocks north on 6th Avenue.

Down the block by NATURE Lab, the Eco-Art Talking Circle will feature a mosaic of a sacred turtle, as a gathering space for Indigenous and ecological perspectives.

Musical events, including StoryHarvest and Freedom Festival at Freedom Square, will showcase Indigenous music from symphony orchestra performance, hip hop, drumming and storytelling. Multimedia (video and sound art, music and interviews from Sanctuary’s archive) will augment voices of our systemically traumatized neighbors, gaining strength through our community radio station Hudson Mohawk Network. 

At the heart of the evolving Art Trail is Indigenous heritage, the Hudson and its estuarine resources, grounding visitors to the land. We are beneficiaries of millennia of human history, once nurtured by Indigenous hands in a majestic paradise, yet traumatized through industrial development and systemic inequities.

“The Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail addresses the historic erasure of the voices of the people of North Central. From the forced relocation of the Indigenous peoples over 300 years ago, to the toxic legacy of the Industrial Revolution impacting the low income & economically disadvantaged neighbors today, their voices must be heard. Through participatory arts, we collaborate as allies – to help raise up the presence of the ancestors and activate networks struggling against economic inequality, systemic racism, and climate change.”

Branda Miller, Project Director, “Tonko heralds $175,000 in grants for Capital Region Arts programs,”Troy Record 5-28-22.

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About The Sanctuary

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

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