Beginning in late 2006, I served a year as an Americorps volunteer moving earth, boulders and trees, as a part of the Civic Works Community Lot Team in Baltimore City. It was the beginning of a lasting friendship with Ed Miller, director of the team. After my year of service, he continued to call on me as a collaborator, planting the seeds of his creative concepts in the fertile soil of my mind so that I might make his art dreams a reality.
My first floor mural, Flower Path, was in fact Ed’s idea; I had by that point painted several murals, but all were traditionally located on walls. Ed had the idea to paint on the actual asphalt street surface, creating a sort-of mural crosswalk to connect two gardens that had been installed on either side of dead-end Holbrook Street on the Eastside of Baltimore. I was also very influenced by a recent journey through India, where in the southern state of Tamil Nadu I had been fortunate to experience the morning ritual of women decorating their doorsteps with kolams (mandalic designs drawn with rice and stone powders). Numerous volunteers helped paint in the floral design that I outlined on the ground.
Both art and gardens are creative life forces. Gardens are made up of plants, green growth; art is the creative expression of the human animal. They complement each other because they both express the possibility of renewal. Flowers and trees begin as small seeds and grow vibrant and tall; art begins as ideas and then becomes tangible, full of color and form. Art can be a positive medium for a community to express itself and say—“Hey, we are the people of this place, this is our story.” It can create common responsibilty for a space, and as such can encourage respect towards the people, animals, plants, rocks and buildings that comprise the neighborhood in which the work of art exists. Through these projects, I experienced firsthand the power of art and gardens to positively impact our lives, and I am eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to collaborate with Ed Miller in the creation of these sacred spaces.