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Artist-in-Residence at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

I have been selected to be an artist-in-residence at one of my favorite places in Richmond, Virginia. Located on Lakeside Avenue, Lewis Ginter Botancial Gardens "offers year-round beauty on a historic property with more than 50 acres of spectacular gardens, dining, and shopping. A classical domed Conservatory is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic. More than a dozen themed gardens include a Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Asian Valley and Cherry Tree Walk."

As one of two selected artists, I will explore the theme "Restore: The Healing Power of Nature" using visual arts by reflecting, researching, and creating in the garden. My journey with the garden began March 24th with many relaxing walks learning about different plants, some unbeknownst to me like the Paperbush aka Edgeworthia Chrysantha. This quickly became one of my favorite sweet smelling flowering bush. My residency will continue to the summer.

Inspired by the daffodils, I decided to make a series of costumes celebrating nature. As I embody floral arrangements and plant life while interacting with visitors to the gardens, I inspire connection with people from all walks of life. Our common love of nature has brought us together even while we remain socially distanced with masks on. People approach me, a black American woman, without hesitation or ill-will to compliment my costume. They named me "Mother Nature," "Flower Princess," "Ms. Spring," and "Woman of Flowers." In those brief moments, all of the racism, violence by some police officers, senseless murders, and political mayhem disappear. We become a temporary community.

I spent several weeks in the gardens before I made this outfit. During those visits, I didn't have one conversation with another visitor. However, in my costume, I had several long conversations with others. A barrier was lifted, not with a name badge or shirt that says "I work here," but with a festive, nature inspired wearable art piece that people felt comfortable being around and admiring just as they do nature. And that's what the arts have always done, begin conversations on common ground.

I look forward to what I will do next....

Photos by Adrian Buster

Read more about the residency here.

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