Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Permaculture Festival

Inspired by some of my learnings in my interviews, I attended a Permaculture Festival here in NYC in mid-October. It was held at the Old Stone House Historic Center in Brooklyn and featured show-and-tell style tables, events, talks, and workshops throughout the day. I was limited in time and only was able to enjoy a few of the many activities of this day, but it was wonderful starting to learn about communities and initiatives that I was previously unaware of. Further, it reinforced my goals of "thesis as lifestyle". I thoroughly enjoyed taking the subway to a part of NYC I had never gone to and being delighted to find a wonderful park, historic center, and incredible people to speak with.

At the festival I met a women from who spoke with me about how Prospect Park "rewilded" in a way after the financial crisis in the 1970's. The state didn't have the money to keep taking care of it, so they let it grow and haven't really brought it back to its former manicured state since. She also recommended I look into the documentary "America's Amazon" .

I toured the grounds of the Old Stone House and got to see all of the different flowers and plants growing there. A woman named Kim Fenwick showed a group of us how to make wildflower bouquets. 

I was introduced to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture - a non-religious community group that comes together each Sunday to hold free and open-to-the-public ethical talks. This reminded me very much of Karen's thesis. I like the idea of recreating spiritual groups around social values without any focus on a religious deity.

Finally, I met Sam from Greenwood Robinson. This is an incredible company that is creating rainwater collection and filtration systems for residential and commercial buildings in the neighborhoods around Gowanus. 

I wish I could have stayed longer. There was a 3 page list of people and organizations attending and holding activities throughout the day. It was so exciting to see a group of people coming together over permaculture. But it made me question why NYC doesn't have a larger scale permaculture food system. The ones I've been exposed to so far are primarily small gardens. Or at least until I did another google search for it and came across Swale. I am so excited to visit Swale later on this week and see how their operations having been running since they opened earlier this year.


Jenna Witzleben