Posts tagged ‘garden fest’

Art For a Day

On May 10th We celebrated National Public Gardens Day with Earth Matters to Smithsonian Gardens – Garden Fest 2013! It was a busy (and hot) day energized by music, dancing, crafts, tomato potting, and lots of information for the home gardener, from composting to attracting pollinators.

When we asked artist  Emily C-D to design a collaborative, ephemeral art activity for Garden Fest we were excited to see what she would dream up. For weeks we collected leaves, flowers, and  more from our gardens and greenhouses, eager to see how she would incorporate the materials into an artwork dependent on visitor participation that would only last for one day.

In her own words, here is Emily’s take on her process and vision:

Garden Fest collaborative and ephemeral art activity

Emily drew out a design on a piece of 15’ x 15’ canvas beforehand and brought it with her on the big day. Photo by Brett McNish.

What was your inspiration for the project?

Emily: I was asked to come up with a temporary, participatory art piece appropriate for a festival about gardening that would also reference the Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor exhibit at the National Museum of African Art. Drawing on my experience as a muralist who has often painted on horizontal surfaces, and also as an explorer that has experienced the beauty of Mexican tapetes (ephemeral carpets), I proposed the creation of a ground mural out of natural materials. I have always enjoyed transforming the floor—crosswalks, sidewalks, streets, and bridges—because the process of creation and the finished piece are intrinsically participatory. I can invite people of all ages and abilities to join in the fun since the surface to be transformed does not necessitate the use of ladders or scaffolding. The public that walks across the finished work of art enters the world created by the designs and colors, literally becoming a part of the piece. For Garden Fest, it seemed appropriate that we would use organic materials from the garden itself—seeds, leaves, petals, sticks, wood chips, rocks, and dirt—to “paint” the mural.

Adding natural materials to the ephemeral art piece.

Throughout the day visitors participated by jumping in and adding natural materials to the larger design. Some stayed for only a few minutes but others stayed for more than an hour. Photo by Francisco X. Guerra.

Can you tell us a little bit more about “garden carpets” in Mexico?

Emily: Tapetes (literally, carpet in Spanish) are temporary works of art that are created on the ground out of brightly colored sawdust and other organic materials like flower petals, beans, seeds, and rice. In Mexico, their creation is a public event that draws the community together and is often associated with the celebration of a religious holiday. Tapetes can be monumental, perhaps covering the entire block that surrounds a church. It takes an incredible amount of patience, time, and energy to create a work of art of such magnitude (and often quite impressive detail and design), and yet tapetes are meant to be walked on. They are pathways for spiritual processions and as such they are ephemeral, lasting only a day or two. The value of tapetes lies within a process that builds community and brings people into the present through the creation of a moment of beauty.

Did everything go as planned? Did anything surprise you?

Emily: The nature of my community practice is such that the element of surprise is built into the projects. My role as the artist is to create an open framework that establishes cohesiveness within a work of art that involves the contributions of many hands and minds.  Although I might be working with specific themes, materials, and/or designs, many details are left up to the participants so that they might have a sense of ownership of the piece, and not just feel like “helpers.” In the case of Garden Carpet, I drew a very basic design onto a large piece of canvas which people were encouraged to “color in” using the various materials at hand—sort of like a page from a monumental coloring book. The symmetrical nature of my drawing influenced the placement of the materials (sand, pinecones, or pink sawdust), so that without directing people as to where to place what, the final work exhibited an incredible sense of balance. It was a constant surprise to me as to which colors and textures were chosen to fill in the different areas of the design, and yet at the end of the day, my original drawing still shone through.

Visitors add natural materials to the ephemeral art piece at Garden Fest.

We were amazed by the intricate designs created by the Garden Fest visitors. Photo by Brett McNish.

 What was your favorite moment of the day?

Emily: The moment when two girls began to fill in the blank design with color was especially exciting, and viewing the finished work at the end of the day was definitely very satisfying. Although, I have to stress that I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the day. Every moment was filled with color, collaboration, and creation!

Emily C-D with the finished work of art.

Emily C-D with the finished garden carpet at the end of the day. Photo by Francisco X. Guerra.

How did you get into community art, and what do you enjoy about collaborating with the public?

Art is a form of communication that can transgress boundaries of language and culture. As such, I have always been interested in increasing the accessibility of art so that we might all realize our creative potential and cooperate in the creation of a more vivid, expressive world. I first got into community art back in 2004 when I facilitated the painting of new outdoor seating for a public library in Baltimore. Since then, I have been creating fun, interactive projects that blur the line between spectator and participant, working with people to discover color, rhythm, and beauty within the chaos of our reality.

At the end of the day the installation was rolled up and composted at our greenhouse facility, but it lives on in photographs and the memories of those who contributed to its creation.

Emily C-D is based out of Mexico City and Baltimore. You can view more of her community art on her website:


-Kate Fox, Smithsonian Gardens educator

July 17, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Join us for Earth Matters to Smithsonian Gardens – Garden Fest 2013!

Garden Fest 2013

In celebration of National Public Gardens Day, join us on Friday for Earth Matters to Smithsonian Gardens – Garden Fest 2013!  This year’s Garden Fest is inspired by the National Museum of African Art’s exhibition, Earth Matters:  Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa.

At Earth Matters to Smithsonian Gardens – Garden Fest 2013!, visitors of all ages can participate in fun and lively activities focused on interacting with the earth.  Help create an ephemeral land art installation with materials from the many Smithsonian Gardens with artist Emily C-D, listen to live music, make a seed bomb, journey on an ancient expedition with the help of petrified wood, fossils, amber, and gardens tools, or dance Zumba!  Smithsonian Gardens will also hold a plant container design contest, host a photo shoot for our Shutter-Bug Collection on Pinterest, and offer informal workshops on composting.  There will be demonstrations highlighting the connection between Smithsonian Gardens’ irrigation plan and the Smithsonian weather station, and learn about the many tomato varieties that are grown in Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden.

Stop by during your lunch break or after work to hear great live music, for a snack or drink at the Castle Café (featuring a special garden menu for the event), view the Earth Matters exhibit in the gardens and at the National Museum of African Art – both open until 7pm – and have some fun in the garden at Garden Fest!

Date: May 10th, 2013
Time: 11 am to 7:00 pm
Location: Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle
Metro: Green/Yellow or Blue/Orange lines to L’Enfant Plaza or Blue/Orange line to Smithsonian

May 7, 2013 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Garden Fest 2012: Gardening for Healthy Living

Here at Smithsonian Gardens we have been working hard for the past few months to plan our annual Garden Fest event. The theme of this year’s Garden Fest is Gardening for Healthy Living, inspired by our newest education program, Let’s Move! with Smithsonian Gardens. We have planned more than twenty garden-themed activities to show our visitors all the different ways that they can stay healthy and active in the garden.

We are excited to have our friends from other public gardens join Smithsonian Gardens for this cannot-miss event, including Hillwood Museum & Gardens, Brookside Gardens, Green Spring Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. And there are some local museums joining the fun as well including the National Gallery of Art, Freer-Sackler Gallery, and the National Zoo.

As Smithsonian Gardens’ education intern, I got the chance to witness firsthand all of the hard work that goes into planning such a big event. In addition to the core Garden Fest team, many of our horticulturalists lent a hand in planning their own activities to showcase healthy living in the garden. In addition, our entire staff is prepped and ready to pull everything together in the coming week to make this event a success. From developing activities to making posters to setting up tables, everyone here at Smithsonian Gardens has pitched in to make this year’s Garden Fest the best yet!

Beyond helping in the planning of this event, I also got to work on the Let’s Move! with Smithsonian Gardens activity. Let’s Move! interpretative panels will be featured throughout the Haupt Garden during the event. Each participant will get a copy of our Let’s Move! Healthy Hunt Guide. Then visitors can start searching for each of the ten panels scattered around the garden. Volunteers from our Garden Interpreter program will be ready and waiting to stamp the guides as visitors complete the panel activities. Everyone who completes the hunt will receive a prize!

This is only one of the many great activities we have planned for Garden Fest 2012. It takes place on May 11th from 11am to 1:30pm and May 12th from 11am to 3pm in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the  Smithsonian Castle. See our website for more information.

We hope to see you moving at Garden Fest!

Bridget Sullivan, Education Intern

May 4, 2012 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

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