The Stomata Collective with their award-winning installation “The Exchange”.
Photo courtesy of Gladstone Hotel, by Gabby Frank @gabbafrank.
Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel is known as a hub of art, design and ideas. The hotel’s Grow Op exhibition, now in its seventh year, looks at those themes through an interdisciplinary lens.
This year’s Grow Op theme was energy – whether it be clean or dirty, social or embodied. It was a perfect launchpad for the Gladstone’s new commitment to renewable energy.
Earlier this spring, we welcomed the Gladstone Hotel to the bullfrogpowered community. The Gladstone is now setting a new standard for sustainable hotel practices in Canada by choosing 100 percent green electricity and 100 percent green natural gas.
As sponsors of the Grow Op event, we had the opportunity to present an award to a participating artist. After careful consideration, Bullfrog Power selected Stomata Collective for their installation, “The Exchange.”
We sat down with Jessie, Micah and Steve – the team behind Stomata Collective – to hear more about their inspiration for The Exchange and their mission as artists.
Bullfrog Power: Stomata are microscopic openings in plants that allow gases to exit and enter. How did this biological feature inspire your collective’s name?
Stomata Collective: The subtext to the collective’s name is “artistic Interventions for natural systems,” and we are inspired by the idea of creating balance by opening up spaces for nature in urban lifestyles and environments – both inside and out. Taking those ideas and drawing from them, stomata are real natural openings that bring balance to plants, and so we adopted it as our name and message.
BP: Are there any underlying values or messages that connect all of your projects?
SC: We believe in the value and beauty of nature but also the importance of community. Technology is so intertwined within our communities and often seems opposed to the natural world, but we believe we can work with nature and technology to create more balanced spaces in our lives, inspiring environmental stewardship in our communities through design. Stories are playing out in nature that we may not fully realize and they are essential to the healthy functioning of this planet we call home. Illuminating, sharing and learning from these stories is our goal.
BP: Why were you interested in submitting a piece to the Grow Op event at the Gladstone?
SC: The Grow Op is a unique exhibition that merges all of our interests in landscape architecture, fine art, urbanism, environment and community. We’ve always wanted to participate but have been delayed by life’s business. The timing for us this time around lined up beautifully, and it has allowed us to grow in our design process and to take the chance to put ourselves out there.
BP: What was the group’s inspiration behind The Exchange, and how did this affect the types of materials you chose to use for the installation?
SC: We wanted to create a sense of awe and wonder surrounding the natural world and also to evoke a strong sense of the connection between people and nature and each other. The project takes inspiration from the research of people like Suzanne Simard and Diana Beresford Kroeger and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben. As landscape architects, we were relatively well exposed to mycorrhizal fungi networks already, but their work really opened our eyes to how important they are to the tree communities and how perfect they were as a subject for us as Stomata Collective.
We had always set out with the intention to be as environmentally conscious as we could in the context of what we were trying to achieve, but as our research continued to reinforce our ideas, it became apparent that we had to choose materials that had as little impact on the environment as possible. All of the wood is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified – which means it is sustainably harvested. All of the plastic is PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is a corn-starch-based polymer. All of the lighting is low voltage LEDs – and thanks to the Gladstone’s partnering with Bullfrog Power, all of the power was renewable too!
BF: As the winners of the Bullfrog Power award, why do you think it’s essential to support a path towards a renewable energy future?
SC: It’s not an option anymore, it’s a requirement. We have the ability as a species to choose a sustainable future, and if we don’t take action, we doom our children to lives far worse than our own.
BF: Do I remember hearing that some members of the group are Bullfrog Power customers? What influenced you to join the Bullfrog Power community?
SC: Yes, I (Steve) am a member. I was fortunate enough to have someone knock on my door several years back. Before that, I had no idea this was a thing, and so, when presented with the opportunity to help support the change that is needed, I took it. Now I have a 4-year-old daughter and feel even more strongly about the decision to be a part of the renewable future of energy in Canada.
For more information on the Gladstone Hotel and their upcoming events, be sure to check out their website https://www.gladstonehotel.com/. Bullfrog Power’s green electricity and green natural gas products help climate-conscious businesses and individuals begin to address their existing energy emissions. If you are interested in learning more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.