Timberwolf: An Upcycled Symbol of Community
Curated & Edited by T.K. Mills - Written by Sierra Chapdelaine - Images by Leaf & ThisBushwickLife
A symbol of community born from its very own: Timberwolf, a sustainable art installation, resides proudly in Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn. Constructed by artist Alex ‘Rocko’ Rupert using recycled plywood and lumber, the upcycled installation is rich with symbolism, conveying not only the beauty and practicality of repurposing the scrapped materials, but also the deep-rooted history within them.
The idea for a sustainable art installation started with Debora ‘Deb’ Rivas, of the Clean Bushwick Initiative, the idea brought to fruition alongside Connie Byun, owner of 3rd Ethos Gallery.
Byun is a friend of Deb, who “knew that she had relationships with a lot of amazing artists.”
“I approached her and told her that I had a great idea for an art installation in the park that involves a strong environmental message.” said Deb.
Byun knew exactly the person to execute the plan: Rocko.
“Rocko is very well versed in environmental issues and communicates it well,” explained Deb.
Much of what Rocko stands for and creates is centered around reclaiming and repurposing. Timberwolf was bred from Rocko’s preexisting affinity for animal portraits and sculptures, combined with his passion for sustainability and eco-consciousness.
Some of the repurposed material used to create Timberwolf was lumber and old scaffolding boards from M Fine Lumber, a Bushwick-based company. Many of these components are upwards of ten years old, rich with history from their varying use. Other material used was plywood acquired from Worthless Studios, that was once used to board up businesses during the Black Lives Matter riots. The previously graffiti decorated plywood, an iconic part of a pivotal moment in history for the world and locality alike, now contributes to a new piece of the community- one that aims to bring people together instead of segregating them.
Timberwolf pays tribute to, and embodies, the continuing strength of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.
Timberwolf is an evolving, collaborative project with the community. For the unveiling, the project team for Timberwolf partnered with PS123 to get children involved with the project.
Deb emphasized the importance of this project and its implementation of programs that are inclusive of children especially, so as to teach them about horticulture and sustainability.
Rocko is a firm believer in not generating waste, but instead, creating from it. In his words, “waste can be used from the community to bring attention to certain forgotten areas of that community itself.”
Timberwolf inhabits the northeast end of Maria Hernandez Park, an otherwise low traffic area. Since being installed, Timberwolf has attracted more visitors to the area, making it more lively and drawing attention to a somewhat previously forgotten corner of the park.
“There was an initial concern of the community board about the installation taking up space, but it actually brought more people to the underutilized area – so now people go there to take up space.” said Rocko.
“With public artwork, it’s a good idea to propose it to the board,” said Deb, “this is to make sure the existing citizenry is aware and involved in the process.”
Deb also detailed that “quite a bit of pushback was faced in the beginning of the approval process because there is this whole idea that beautifying things creates this different kind of traffic- the kind that eventually gentrifies and changes neighborhoods.” She continued, “so, there was that fear. But after Timberwolf was installed, what it actually did was it welcomed everybody.”
Rocko stressed how important it was to get everybody involved in this, because “the whole idea is like a wolf pack-its about survival, which is contingent upon everybody’s input. Just like this project.”
Though Timberwolf stands effortlessly there in Maria Hernandez Park, the process of bringing it to life was not so, and took an immense amount of perseverance and patience from the entire project team.
“The approval process was very extensive; it took 2 years to get approved.” said Deb. She also noted how patient Rocko was during this time.
“The rendering was done eight times, actually. Eight different pavilions were designed before settling on the final structure,” Rocko explained. “There was a lot of redrawing and rewriting.” Byun added.
Deb recounted how exciting it was when they were finally able to see it go into fruition. “It is manifestation at its finest; we were pulling teeth for two years to make it happen, and when it did, it happened very quickly and definitely met all of our expectations.” Deb and Byun both agreed on how much Rocko, himself, superseded everyone’s expectations.
The eco-friendly installation is also adorned with beautiful and flourishing climbing ivy designed by Livin NYC, so as to “make the installation ever evolving, just like the neighborhoods” according to Rocko. The ivy represents hope and vitality.
“I walk by that space often,” said Deb, “and every time I pass by I see people parking their blankets with their kids. The structure has turned the area into a much more inviting environment than it ever was before.”
“People don’t necessarily think that they can build something,” said Rocko, “because most times they don’t think they have the tools, materials, or skills. But this whole thing was built in a week. Anybody can do something. Take whatever you can find and make something that everybody can use, and that everybody can get something out of.”
Rocko emphasized that his “biggest hope for this project was that people would see it, see that it was done with reclaimed materials, and then maybe- hopefully- be inspired to do something like that on their own.”
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