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Helen Lessick: House for Summer


Summary Note

House for Summer is a living tree sculpture created by Helen Lessick and planted in 1987 at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland Oregon. Materials include printed ephemera and field guides, 35 mm slide images, digital imagery documenting the growth of the trees from 2006 – 2011, press, and exhibition materials.

Biographical Note

Helen Lessick is an artist and public art consultant, was educated at Reed College and UC Irvine, and worked at the Washington State Arts Commission and then King County Office of Arts and Culture in public arts programs. She later worked in Los Angeles and Houston, all the while maintaining a studio practice under the business name of Structural Expressionism. Her studio and public practices deal with “site, ecology, geology and user groups. Arts policy consulting, public art collection planning, management and assessments, working with organizations and the community of artists to assist in the creation, curation, presentation, and preservation of permanent, temporary and ephemeral projects and events.” Recent gallery exhibitions in 2011 occurred at Lewis and Clark College, Portland and littlebigspace, Albany,CA. Lessick also completed public art projects with non-profit agencies in Hollywood, CA and Nairobi Kenya during 2011.

Scope and Content

Lessick submitted a project proposal to plant one of her four seasons living “tree houses” at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. The House for Summer was approved for construction in 1986, and planting of its fifteen Himalayan birch trees was completed the next year. The trees are lashed to form the peaked roof of a “house,” a structure that has become a focal point for local performances. The project’s growing trees are trimmed and maintained by Arboretum staff and documented photographically by the artist each year. Materials include project description printed ephemera and field guides, 35 mm slide images, digital imagery documenting the growth of the trees from 2006 – 2011, and press materials. Lessick’s solo exhibition, curated by Tori Ellison in 2016, was created to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of House for Summer and began to tour in 2017.


The Helen Lessick: House for Summer archive is organized into six folders: Folder 1 contains information about the artist and her artistic practice, folders 2 & 3 contain materials that relate specifically to House for Summer, folder 4 contains materials from the artist’s other projects, and folders 5 & 6 contain general exhibition ephemera and press.

Inclusive Dates


Bulk Dates


Quantity / Extent

.125 cubic feet



Related Archive Collections

  • CAE0911: Jane ingram Allen: Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival
  • CAE1204: Stuart Ian Frost: Outdoor Sculpture Projects
  • CAE1401: Jane ingram Allen: ChengLong Wetlands International Environmental Art Project
  • CAE1511: Fritz Haeg: Projects
  • CAE2207: Jane Ingram Allen: Living Quilts

Related Publications

Lessick, Helen. Canopy: On Helen Lessick’s Trees. Los Angeles, CA: Structural Expressionism, 2017.

Lessick, Helen. Helen Lessick: Waterline. Los Angeles, CA: Self-published, 1999.

Lessick, Helen. Understory: Helen Lessick's Invstigations of the Invisible and the Unseen. Los Angeles, CA: Self-published, 2019.

Container Listing:

  • CAE Box 6

    • Folder 1 Artist Information, 2009 – 2017
    • Folder 2 House for Summer Project Information, 1988 – 2012
    • Folder 3 House for Summer Project Images, 1985 – 2010
    • Folder 4 Soil and Other Projects, 1985 – 2017
    • Folder 6 General Press Materials, 1990 – 2017
    • Folder 5 General Exhibition Ephemera, 2009 – 2017