Mona Chalabi. The Gray-Green Divide (detail), 2022. Ink and colored pencil on paper, dimensions variable. © Mona Chalabi.

Brooklyn-based artist and data journalist Mona Chalabi activates the Brooklyn Museum’s outdoor plaza with a site-specific installation that deepens our appreciation for trees. Mona Chalabi: The Gray-Green Divide explores the connections between environmental justice and climate change, exposing their unequal impact on communities throughout Brooklyn. Dedicated to increasing access to data and problematizing the field of data visualization, Mona riffs on this graphical language to foster critical thinking about trees’ role in our daily lives.

Trees create shade and lower temperatures, and they reduce the energy needed in residential buildings, remove air pollution, and provide shelter for wildlife. In addition, studies show that access to trees affects physical and mental health. When many New Yorkers were forced to stay home during the pandemic, extreme heat and uneven proximity to cool green space became, and remain, heightened public health issues.

Situated at the nexus of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Prospect Park, the installation is presented in two sections. On the Museum’s front steps and the wall to their left, playful drawings of the one hundred most common trees in New York City—pulled from NYC Parks census dat —celebrate the city’s biodiversity. By depicting each tree and its leaves, Mona invites us to admire the specificity of the surrounding greenery. On the rest of the wall, two maps and a chart track temperature levels and tree densities in Brooklyn neighborhoods. Together, the installation’s components demonstrate the correlation between access to green space and income level, and expose hard truths about the inequities of who gets to enjoy the city’s vegetation and its vital benefits. Located across from the Museum’s newly planted cherry blossom trees, The Gray-Green Divide also calls attention to the responsibility of institutions and community stakeholders to nurture the land that we inhabit.

Mona Chalabi: The Gray-Green Divide is organized by Lauren Zelaya, Director of Public Programs, Brooklyn Museum. The installation opens May 6, weather permitting, and is on view through November 13, 2022.

Generous support is provided by The Future is Unwritten Artist Response Fund as part of Healing Arts, a global cultural call to action in response to the pandemic. Healing Arts 2022 is produced by CULTURUNNERS and Arts + Health @ NYU under the auspices of the WHO Arts and Health Program.

Resources provided by NYC Parks and NYC Council.

About the Artist
Mona Chalabi is a data journalist as well as a writer, artist, producer, and presenter. Using words, color, and sound, Mona humanizes data to help us better understand our world and the way we live in it.

Mona works beside windows, usually in Brooklyn but sometimes in her hometown, London. Her writing and illustrations have been featured in the New York Times, New Yorker, and Guardian, where she is currently the data editor. Her video, audio, and production work has been featured on Netflix, NPR, the BBC, and National Geographic.

Her work has earned her a fellowship at the British Science Association, an Emmy nomination, and recognition from the Royal Statistical Society. In recent years, her art has been exhibited at Tate Modern, the Design Museum, and the House of Illustration. She studied international relations in Paris, France, and Arabic in Jordan.