This July, Processional Arts inhabits the Planting Fields landscape with a roving performance installation of flowers, fables, and follies!

Planting Fields Foundation is proud to announce Processional Arts as the 2024 Catalyst artists. Join us for a unique opportunity to work with this year’s artists to create Follies: A Botanical Backstory, a site-specific performance on the grounds of Planting Fields.

The performance will be built in a week of FREE art workshops starting on Friday, July 19 and will culminate in a final event on Saturday, July 27.

Processional Arts will engage workshop participants in every stage of creating this collaborative immersive performance. Employing techniques such as paper mâché, decoupage, and lightweight sculptural assemblage, the stories of Planting Fields will come to life as ambulatory artworks. Workshops are geared towards adults and teens, and kids 8 and up working with an adult are welcome. Participants of all ages are invited to attend the performance. No experience necessary – one will be provided!

Registration is required for workshops and can be made online here.

Volunteers of every age working on an element from a previous Processional Arts workshop. Image courtesy of Ben Thacker.

About Follies: A Botanical Backstory
Principal artists Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles lead a week of community workshops to unearth and illuminate the histories buried in the collection’s greenhouse plants – from Camellia sinensis’ tale of tea and trade to the Orchidelerium that gripped Victorian England. Drawing connections to material cultures, colonial histories, medicinal wisdom, and scientific discoveries, workshop participants will translate these botanical backstories onto mobile illustrated hothouses and translucent puppets that mysteriously assemble, then drift apart as they move through the gardens in performance.

Collaged in faux stained-glass panels, these ephemeral enclosures evoke the architectural “follies” of 18th and 19th century landscapes – whimsical structures, ancient temples, miniature castles, and other imaginary ruins built to imbue English country estates with simulated histories. Closer to home, these botanical follies reflect the deliberate interplay of wild nature and domestic space at Coe Hall – most notably in Robert Winthrop Chanler’s murals, Everett Shinn’s whimsical tea-house lunettes – while also mirroring the stained-glass windows that lend a Tudor-era glow to the house. Just as botanical histories reveal complex undercurrents of colonial expansion and Western obsessions with the exotic, so too is the origin story of William and Mai Rogers Coe entwined with international commerce and a lifelong passion to preserve rare and precious living things. Follies invites community makers and audiences alike to dig deeper into the collection’s buried tales and see Planting Fields through a newly-colored glass. 

Invisible Cities. Performance Space 21. Chatham, NY. Image courtesy of Processional Arts.


About Catalyst
Every year since 2020, Planting Fields Foundation has commissioned artists to create site-specific art within the 409-acres of Planting Fields. We launched Catalyst to continue the legacy of artistic patronage the Coe family brought to Planting Fields over a century ago by inviting leading artists of their time to create work for the site. Through Catalyst, we challenge and expand our relationships with history as we explore this site from different points of view.

About Processional Arts
Processional Arts, led by Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, works with communities to create site-specific, human-powered, art parades, and Carnivalesque happenings. Engaging volunteers at every stage of production, these collaborative works evoke unique local narratives and visual cultures through pageant puppetry, illuminations, ceremonial architecture, and masking/costuming. Since 1998, performances by Processional Arts have led NY’s Village Halloween Parade and appeared at the High Line, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Miami’s Vizcaya Museum, and the Obama White House. Outside of traditional venues, they have engaged communities ranging from the streets of Kyiv to the South Bronx, from the Italian Alps to the Texas bayous.


Catalyst 2024: Follies: A Botanical Backstory was made possible by a generous grant from the Estate of KK Auchincloss.