Friday, September 22, 2023
10am - 6pm
Awbury Arboretum Agricultural Village

10:00am - 10:30am - Reception w/Drumming

S(tree)twork Drum Corp musicians Rich Robinson, Karen Smith and others will play instruments developed by Philadelphia drummers and woodworkers.

10:30am - 11:00am - Remarks & Lightning House Door Opening

11:00am - 12:00pm - Block printing

S(tree)twork collaborating artists Aaron Terry and Amir Robinson will facilitate block printing using a mobile printing press created through S(tree)twork’s community engagement activities.

12:30pm - 1:30pm - Drum Making

Led by Rich Robinson and woodworker Don Miller, an artist talk & workshop where Rich and Don will discuss the process behind building their latest project for S(tree)twork.

4:00pm - 6:00pm - Public Open House

Taji Ra’oof Nahl (TR7) with Nate Totusehek & S(tree)twork Drum Core Musicians Rich Robinson, Karen Smith, Coby Haynes including guest Universal Rhythm (Shakoor Hakeem & Pete Angevine)

On Friday, September 22, 2023, S(tree)twork, now in its third year, will celebrate the opening of a new public project space— the Lightning House—dedicated to growing the urban forest.

Located on the Farm at Awbury Arboretum, the Lightning House has been built on the ruins of a former stone carriage house. The space with its accessible roof will serve as a community woodworking, gathering, and performance space.

The S(tree)twork project is guided by the cycle of a tree’s life. Following a seasonal rhythm, S(tree)twork transforms fallen trees into percussive instruments such as drums and xylophones that are then played at street planting events in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. This program has been developed through a three-year participatory process led by Futurefarmers.

Drawing on the rich history and community of musicians in Philadelphia, S(tree)twork turns to the transformative power of sound to summon diverse cultural communities towards participation in Philadelphia’s urban greening efforts as part of a holistic approach to community health. Each year, S(tree)twork c ollects trees fallen by storm, disease or age. Through a workshop led by local woodworkers and musical instrument builders, the trees are transformed into sound making instruments.

Designed and built by Futurefarmer’s lead architect Lode Vranken, the Lightning House was informed by a community design process convened in April 2022, and was constructed together with Japanese wood joinery woodworker Nobuto Suga who joined from San Francisco. Other volunteers generously contributed to the building of the structure including Philadelphia architectural studio Oz Collaborative and Hanson Fine Building with roofing donated from Kurtz Construction.

The Lightning House name and S(tree)twork’s percussion instrument building program were inspired by the Ancient Infinity Lightning Wood Drum created from a tree struck by lightning on Morton Street in Germantown that was created by James Jacson of Sun Ra’s Mythic Science Arkestra.

S(tree)twork is curated by Marina McDougall on behalf of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), in partnership with the international art and design collective Futurefarmers. S(tree)twork has been supported by a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

The project has been conceived to inspire new perceptions of trees through arts and culture, and to stimulate interest in proliferating the urban forest. S(tree)twork aligns with the City of Philadelphia’s new Philly Tree Plan to equitably protect and grow Philadelphia’s tree canopy and “to set forth new ways of working with residents to mitigate climate change and to prioritize equity in delivery, ensuring that the most vulnerable communities benefit from a healthy tree canopy.”

S(tree)twork’s programs contribute to a regenerative process benefitting both natural and human ecologies—extending the webs of life—from subterranean roots and soil, to ground level human habitats, to tree top bird dwellings throughout Philadelphia's neighborhoods.

As Futurefarmer founder and lead artist Amy Franceschini describes, “a fallen tree is essential to regenerating the complex ecosystem around it. S(tree)twork extends the life of the tree to include the city through the transformation of fallen trees into percussive instruments. Musicians branch out into the community animating tree plantings supported by a volunteer network of PHS Tree Tenders.” In this way S(tree)twork contributes to the cycle of life.

Interdisciplinary arts curator Marina McDougall adds, “S(tree)twork exemplifies the vital importance of art & design in urban ecology restoration efforts. As a community project space, the Lightning House is an invitation to join a growing movement of friends and neighbors to imagine positive futures, and revitalize our neighborhoods in joyful ways.”

PHS’s decades-long involvement in expanding tree canopy in the Greater Philadelphia region promotes health and well-being for hundreds of communities, and its cadre of tree volunteers named Tree Tenders now numbers 6,000.

“The opening of ‘The Lightning House’ exemplifies the best of what happens when the community is deeply involved in the process of designing and programming a public space. We look forward to working alongside residents to promote the importance of trees through art, education, and planting events to bring their vision of a tree filled city to life,” said Matt Rader, President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


Please note that Awbury Arboretum has two main sections divided by Washington Lane. The S(tree)twork structure will be built on the ruin of a former barn located in the Farm at Awbury portion. The site is located near Washington Lane. If you are arriving via car, the best location for parking is on Ardleigh Street.