Artist seeks a garden in the sky

Mike Krumboltz
The Sideshow

UrbanAir wants to transform billboards to bamboo gardens.
UrbanAir wants to transform billboards to bamboo gardens.

Artist Stephen Glassman wants you to look up. The Los Angeles-based artist is looking to create an urban air garden above the streets of L.A.

Right now the air garden is in the concept phase. If enough money is raised (Glassman is seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter), the City of Angels will be home to a floating garden of bamboo on an old billboard support above an on-ramp to Interstate 10 (see concept photo above). Even in a city like L.A. where anything goes, the garden would be sure to turn heads.

We spoke with the artist via email about his project. Much of Urban Air's inspiration can be traced to Glassman's childhood and the Northridge earthquake of 1994.

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"As a child I was deaf, and unable to hear," Glassman said. "I didn't learn to speak until I was nearly 5 years old. During this time I drew a lot, and felt as if I somehow succeeded in communicating anyway I absorbed the sensory information of my environment, but I was unable to question 'why' things were." Now that he can, he wants others to join him.

Around the time of the Northridge earthquake, Glassman was commissioned to create sculptures around Los Angeles. "I used bamboo—which has always been my chosen medium for 'drawing in space.' I love it because it is light and supple, yet strong and structural."

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"At this time I began noticing that although the buildings were destroyed and the freeways collapsed, the billboards remained. I found myself fascinated by them as structures—i was always photographing them—I thought their cantilever was astonishing and beautiful, and i began creating small billboard sculptures. ... The idea of making a billboard with growing bamboo, and creating a kind of 'crack' in the skyline came to me. Leonard Cohen wrote, 'There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in.' Part of my impulse is to create a crack in the skyline with something alive, beautiful, and meaningful."

While the project is still new, the reaction has already been tremendously positive. Glassman has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Discovery and NPR. "Eventually we would love to do something with the cities of the Clinton foundation C40 initiative—forty cities around the world that have committed to measurably reducing their carbon footprint by the year 2020. Urban Air could succeed both as a flag and/or symbol of their intention, and as an instrument to measure and communicate their results. As an art work it gives voice to the desire for a global, green future."