Seeding the City - Eve Mosher
New York, USA, 2011

Funders / Commissioners: Greater New York Development Fund of the New York Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. Private support and investment from the artist where used for the initial sites. The New Museum funded the sites that were created during the Festival of Ideas for the New City’s StreetFest.

Cost Details: USD5,000 for 75 sites.

Duration: Ongoing

Location Details: Various residential locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Date of Delivery: StreetFest workshops completed in 2011. The overall project remains ongoing.

Medium: Installation

Dimensions / Technical Specs: Variable

Themes: Food & Urban Agriculture, Renewal & Regeneration

Author: Lucy Ainsworth

Created by artist Eve Mosher, Seeding the City is a grassroots project that incorporates social networking to find methods for greening the city. With the philosophy that every small contribution can add up to large scale change, Mosher posed the question: “Why have just one roof with 1,000 ft2 of green, when you can have 1,000 roofs with 1 ft2 of green?” City residents were invited to build compact garden modules to install on their rooftops to create a large-scale green roof system throughout the city to counter the urban heat island effect.



Aesthetic/Innovation (Conceptual): Eve Mosher created a green roof module suitable for rooftops of all sizes with the aim of expanding the green roof network in New York City. Each green roof produced under her project would be marked with a “Seeding the City” green and yellow flag. She wanted to create a project heavily reliant on community participation and networking through a neighbor referral scheme.


Social Activation/Social Inclusion/Skills Acquisition: The artist planned to stimulate community action in constructing ‘green’ environments. She wanted to promote and inspire the idea that a large number of people making a small change can create a big impact. The aim of the project was to be open and attainable to various community groups from different backgrounds and areas of the city. The artist wanted to create a relatively easy way for people to be involved in changing the urban environment, whilst teaching participants gardening skills.


Climate Change Adaptation/Energy Efficiency: The artist aspired to introduce attainable methods for environmental remediation and increase awareness about the benefits of green roofs in reducing heat output from dense housing and buildings.



Audience Engagement: Over 75 green roofs were created as part of the project.


Social Activation: The work provided a simple way for members of the public to begin to understand the bigger changes that need to happen in terms of reacting to the effects of climate change. In a small way people could act together to create a larger action.

Community Development:
Subsequently, gardens were established in a preschool and teen homeless shelter. The preschool also created an educational program around urban environmentalism and the shelter created a gardening program.


Community Development: Subsequently, gardens were established in a preschool and teen homeless shelter. The preschool also created an educational program around urban environmentalism and the shelter created a gardening program.


Initially, Seeding the City was created as a project for the residents of New York City to adopt in their homes, rather than a public art commission. The idea behind the project was to establish a neighbour referral system and start small pockets of green roofs that would spread throughout the city streets. The preliminary participants were people and organisations who had heard about the project through media outlets. However, emphasis for the project grew when the New Museum in Manhattan commissioned the project for the Festival of Ideas for the New City’s StreetFest. Mosher hosted public planting workshops where people could build their own compact green roof module to carry home and install.

The project established 75 rooftop gardens throughout the city.  However, the neighbour referral system was not successful with residents reluctant to approach their neighbours. Mosher states that she “learned a lot from that experience about how New Yorkers interact with their neighbors and what constitutes a community.” The downfall of this component of the project was that Mosher did not reach as many residents as she had hoped.

The most successful part of the project was the StreetFest workshops, which engaged the largest amount of participants, many of which learnt how easy it was to build a small-scale garden. The community-focused orientation of the workshops enabled participants to meet like-minded people and build a collective impetus towards urban environmental change. Logistically the workshops were beneficial as people could carry their garden module home with them and Mosher did not have to coordinate delivery and installation. An action that increased ownership and responsibility for the plants.

A major issue for the project was resistance from landlords, with many cases of residents living in rental properties not allowed to install the gardens.


The project had a relatively small environmental footprint in terms of materials used. The aim of Seeding the City was to create an inexpensive and easy to reproduce garden module made from readily available materials. Essentially the modules were black plastic seed raising trays, with a mixture of soil, sand, gravel and hydrorocks and hardy succulent plants. The succulents were chosen for their drought tolerant attributes and also hardiness in the cold winter months. Potentially recycled or re-purposed containers could have been used for the modules, however the artist wanted to focus on creating a project that was easy for people to embrace.

The project was local to New York City therefore minimal travel was expended; the workshop model encouraged people to walk or catch public transport upon taking their garden home.


Mosher, Eve. Interview with author, August 7, 2012.

Mosher, Eve. Seeding the City. (accessed August 8, 2012).

Mosher, Eve. “Why My Latest Project is a FAILURE and Why That is AWESOME!” Eve S. Mosher: Making Art Work. (accessed August 7, 2012).

This database is developed by the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at COFA, UNSW in association with the City of Sydney and Carbon Arts as part of the Australian Research Council ARC linkage project Curating Cities.