2023 Community Art Project

Capturing CU in a Collaborative Collage: a natural portrait from foraged finds

Woohoo! I was the recipient of a 2023 Urbana Arts and Culture grant for a community art project. Are you interested in participating in a GIANT botanical collage sourced only from locals? Read the FAQs below to see how you can participate.

What is your Urbana Arts Grant community-based project?

I’m partnering with Julia Pollack, who is the creator and curator of the Art of Science program at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at UIUC. With this partnership between Secret Gardens CU and the Art of Science we intend to continue bringing the public and the community of Urbana and Champaign interactive creative opportunities to experience the connective tissues of science, art, and community. To this end, I will be creating one HUGE 3-D botanical collage similar to my usual work, but that only includes community sourced and donated objects. 

Sounds cool! How can I contribute something for the art piece?

You can fill out the donor form before (digital form can be found at the link in our bio) or at the booth when you drop of your item. Contributions will mainly be collected at our booth during the Urbana Farmers Market a few times over the summer: June 24, July 15, and August 19 

We will also have a table at the following events (more details soon!): 

  • Southridge Park for Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights on June 14th 6:30-8pm
  • AMBUCS Park for Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights on July 5th 6:30-8pm

You can fill out the donor form before or at the booth when you drop of your item.

What kinds of foraged items can be donated?

           Any natural object that was legally and ethically sourced!  We are asking folks to stick to locally (e.g. in and around Champaign county) foraged items so that the final project represents objects from our community. Common things include leaves, flowers (with stems if possible), mushrooms, bark, moss, rocks, sticks, lichen and more.

How should I collect my items?

For plants, choose a well established one and just cut one to two stems from as close to their base as possible. Typically I don’t need stems longer than 12-16 inches, but too short can be a problem.

  • Always cut your plant just before you plan to donate! This ensures it will be healthy when I get it.
  • You can donate items your dried yourself too, but fresh is preferable because my drying techniques really preserves the flower’s original shape and size.

For mushrooms and lichen, try to collect these all the way to the base without tearing the stem.

For insects, please only donate ones you find dead already.

For all other items, think dry and clean as ideal, but not necessary.

What if I don’t have anything to contribute or don’t have my own garden?

           No problem! We’ve partnered with a few local businesses and organizations are working with us to make sure everyone can be included. There will be specific events where you will have the opportunity pick out a flower or specimen for donation on site, such as the following events. Stop by our table for more details on the dates below!

  • Southridge Park for Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights on June 14th 6:30-8pm
  • AMBUCS Park for Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights on July 5th 6:30-8pm

What kind of info should I share when donating my item?

We will ask donors to share a few things about the item, including the species (if known) and the general (not home addresses) location from where the item was collected. We will also ask donors to share their email address so that we can provide with you the date and venue (once determined) for the art exhibit featuring the completed art piece using your specimens. You can fill out the form here at any time prior to dropping off your specimen, and paper copies will also be available on site during collection events.  

How else can I be a part of this project?

We are also inviting folks who are contributing foraged items for the art piece to share anything about the specimen they are donating. This could be a poem, an interesting fact about the species, a story associated with it, or really anything else that can be shared in written word that you’d like the community to know. These written tidbits will be shared as part of the digital story map! Our local map maker is Wendy Dorman who will be mapping out the general location of all donated specimens along with their species name and any other shared information. The final digital map will be publicly accessible online, and complement the final art piece so that we end up with two ways to envision the natural objects representing our community.

Will I get to see the final art piece?

Yes! The final piece will be showcased at a joint exhibit featuring Julia Pollack’s original work at the Anita Purves Nature Center, with an opening reception on September 23rd from 1-3pm. See you there!