Deborah Koenker, Roberto Pacheco

The Cherry Tree Project

Deborah Koenker and Roberto Pacheco lived in Mount Pleasant for 12 years during the 1980s, and constructed a collaborative work–The Cherry Tree Project– in Spring 1987. Referencing the Japanese ritual of cherry blossom viewing, the sculpture bridged boundaries of three private gardens to celebrate the tree from various unusual perspectives via several constructed sculptural elements, and to subvert private property boundaries. The work necessitated the cooperation of the immediate neighbours, and was open to the public every weekend for 6 weeks as the tree bloomed and morphed. Many people came back for repeated viewings, bringing their kids, friends and relatives to experience and to celebrate the tree, connecting the community in a relaxed social and subtly poetic and political event. 

“We protect our differences in the name of individuality. The experience of stepping over these borders and knowing that for a few weeks the defences had been dropped was an important part of the piece. Rather than trespassing, we were centered in a moment of commonality to which the state had no access. We were declaring the terms and in control of the context in a virtually subversive manner. Each neighbour was a collaborator in the project.”

Deborah Koenker is a Vancouver based interdisciplinary artist with interests in writing and curatorial projects. Utilizing print, drawing, photography, sculpture, audio, projections and textile, Koenker has completed several collaborative and community projects on borders, globalization, migration/immigration, cultural integration and social justice. Her work has been shown in public galleries, museums and artist-run centres in Canada, the USA, Mexico and Spain and is represented in 33 public collections in Canada and the United States.

Roberto Pacheco is an architect schooled in Mexico and Denmark. Roberto’s professional life as an architect in Canada spans four decades. For the past three, he has been fortunate to work with many First Nation communities across British Columbia designing schools, health, community, cultural and administrative centres. Some of his projects have received awards from the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. He is passionate about the importance of good design for the wellbeing of communities.