Walking into the Wedgewood Urban Garden feels a little magical. Surrounded by herbs, flowers, tomato plants and art created by local artists. It is a space where volunteers gather, where gardeners celebrate, and where people and plants grow. Recently a new feature has been added to the lower herb garden -- thirteen meticulously made, porcelain mosaic stepping stones.
Ten local artists labored hard and creatively over the summer to create the mosaics that each represent a cycle that we see in the gardens every day. An egg hatching and growing into a rooster. Bees leaving their hives to pollinate tomato plants and returning to their hive to make honey. Seeds being sowed in the ground then growing steadily into a strawberry plant. And finally tomatoes being whisked away in a pick-up truck to be enjoyed in a salad ultimately representing the farm to table process.
Who are the artists behind such intricate and thought provoking pieces? 14 and 15 year olds in a summer apprenticeship offered by Metro Nashville Arts Commission through the Opportunity NOW program. Led by local artists Jairo and Susan Prado, as well as a college-aged Near Peer Coach, the kids learned about what it looks like to pursue a career in art. Along the way, students were introduced to guest speakers who shared how their jobs connect to the arts and were shown many types of artwork.
One of the most impactful lessons that students learned was about community based and public art. On a field trip the teens were exposed to public art and had the realization that their own communities had many pieces of public art work. They learned that community art is a way for them to communicate experiences, history, and ideas to people the artist may never meet.
Metro Nashville Arts Commission connected the Prado Studio with The Nashville Food Project, and the Wedgewood Urban Garden became the site of the installation because it is a community space where the pieces could be enjoyed by volunteers and community members. Community Garden Manager, Kia Brown, spoke with the teenagers about the various cycles that occur in the garden. Then each artist chose which part of the cycle they wanted to create on their tile. First, they sketched out the image. Then they transferred the sketches into line drawings that became the template of the stones. In the process they learned how to use the tile cutter, power tools, and the basics of creating a mosaic.
There were challenges in the process. The students realized that creating art is very involved and requires a lot of dedication to take a work from start to finish. Susan said that “at the end of the summer students were able to say ‘I did it’ and have a sense of completion.”
The final installation was officially revealed to the public at a summer potluck hosted by the Wedgewood community gardeners. You can learn more information about Opportunity NOW here. For more information on how to become a community gardener please visit our website.