Six years ago, filmmaker and art director, George Burroughs and Lauren Giordano, were living in Washington DC., but they both had a yearning to be outdoors more and grow their own food that urban living wasn’t satisfying. On one of many trips to the eastern shore, they stumbled upon a renovated one-room schoolhouse in Cordova on a few acres that was for sale. In no time, they made the leap, relocated and started growing tomatoes, eggplant and more. Burroughs was the Creative Director at the Brookings Institution and led a team that collaborated with the scholars at Brookings to develop visual presentations and Giordano has served as art director to several national and regional publications, including The Atlantic. Now, the artistic duo has their own creative studio called, Schoolhouse Farmhouse.
Their latest project is a 25-minute film and companion website commissioned by Adkins Arboretum. It’s called, Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in The Underground Railroad. You can view the trailer here. Tubman biographer Kate Clifford Larson calls the film, “Simply breathtaking!.” Larson says its’, “Beautifully filmed and narrated…this remarkable film confirms freedom seekers and their families as early naturalists with enormous wells of knowledge about the flora and fauna of their worlds and offers us a fresh look at history on landscapes teeming with life.”
That landscape can be found at Adkins Arboretum, the backdrop for what the filmmakers describe as a “guided experience” allowing audiences to explore how self-liberators used the natural landscape to forge a path to freedom. The Arboretum plans to launch both the film and companion website on March 11, 2022, at 7:00 pm. with a premiere of the film via livestream hosted by the Avalon Foundation and viewable on the project’s website . Viewers can livestream the film and watch a panel discussion with the filmmakers and historians free, though registration is encouraged. Register here.. The website contains the film as five chapters and is infused with detailed accounts of self-liberators, related historical sites and the landscape around them. Adkins wrote about Adkins Arboretum’s virtual film event here a few weeks back.
The film and website were supported by a grant from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and funded by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Additional funding was received from the Dock Street Foundation and other private funders for promotion, live tours that narrator, Anthony Cohen will lead at Adkins and school curriculums that expand the film and website.
After spending weekends hiking the 400 acres of native plants and beautifully landscaped paths at Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, Maryland and volunteering, the couple started working with the Arboretum on a series of short films about native trees. Shortly after the completion of the project, Ginna Tiernan, the Arboretum’s Executive Director, approached Burroughs and Giordano about expanding their Underground Railroad programming. Through this project and additional Rooted Wisdom programming at the Arboretum, they hope to broaden the conventional narrative surrounding the history of the Underground Railroad. Giordano says this project has the potential to engage a larger community,
“You can get people learning about history through nature and the environment and you can get people to learn about nature and the environment through history.”
Adkins wrote about Cohen a few weeks ago and you can read and listen to him talk about his unique approach to history here . Cohen will be leading tours at the Arboretum on April 22, June 17, and September 23.