Sam Van Aken is a contemporary artist who work utilizes the techniques of grafting as an artistic medium to create multi-grafted trees that blossom in different tones and bear fruit from summer into fall. Focused on preserving heritage fruit varieties, Van Aken is currently developing an orchard of these heirloom and antique varieties on Governors Island that makes these fruit and ways of growing them available to the public.
Born in Reading Pennsylvania, Sam Van Aken grew up on a family dairy farm. He received his undergraduate education in Art and Communication Theory. Immediately following his studies he lived in Poland and worked with dissident artists under the former communist regime through the auspices of the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. Van Aken received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and since this time his work has been exhibited and placed nationally and internationally. He has received numerous honors including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Association of International Curator's of Art Award and a Creative Capital Grant. Most recently, his work has been presented as part of Nature at The Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial and the Cube Design Museum, Netherlands; and was recognized as a Cultural Leader, exhibiting and presenting at the 2020 World Economic Forum. Sam Van Aken lives and works in Syracuse New York, where he is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Art at Syracuse University