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Residency Profiles

Something from Nothing: Garden as Community Arts Installation

Stephanie Flom, Resident Artist at the Union Project

"I was invited to work with community members to create what I call a Magic Penny Garden - a garden made by the community with perennial plants contributed by community members. The core group of adult participants came together twice a week. We shared gardening stroies and childhood memories. We visited neighborhood gardens and discussed our reactions. We shared nighttime dreams and related them to our project. We listened when community members brought their plants and told us of their significance. We sat quietly in the space that was to be the garden and stood on the corner across the street gathering our observations.'

'Joined by other community volunteers, we methodically removed the grass and created our circle, our mandala of unity for the garden. We coalesced into a team of artistic collaborators. Seamlessly, a plan emerged and each plant found its intended place in the garden. With a few special exceptions, the donated plants are all very common. This fact makes the garden all the more compelling. Combining cast-off "garden variety" plants with creativity and a collective spirit, we made something wonder-filled from seemingly nothing. It's a perfect metaphor for the Union Project, which has catalyzed the community to transform an abandoned church at an urban crossroads into a place where community and creativity can flourish. "

Stephanie Flom has been working for two years in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' Artist Residency Program. She is a fellow at the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University working on the Persephone Project and the Arts Gardens of Pittsburgh. Ms. Flom works as both a Garden Artist and as a Ceramicist, connecting students and teachers to the concept of working with the earth as both a medium and a vessel for creativity.