Artistic expression in Community Gardens

By Gillian Valladares Castellino

Today, art and decoration are often the preserve of those with sufficient time and leisure practise it. This wasn't the case even a hundred years ago, when art making was woven into the life and celebrations of communities everywhere - from the Madhubani paintings made by rural women in Northern India, to the calaveras de azĂșcar (sugar skulls) made on Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Latin America. Art is often a commodity and has moved out of the public domain into the rareified sphere of galleries, museums and auction houses. Away from being a form of expression to be enjoyed by everyone and anyone, towards a form of property to be assessed and valued. Away from spontaneous, joyfulness towards the concept of monetary value and exclusivity. There is a well demarcated dividing line between what is classified as kitsch and folk art and 'high art'. Yet art works and design decisions made by people for their own use can be profoundly empowering. Examples of this can be seen in Community Gardens in inner city Melbourne.

Community Gardens in this context were created to give disadvantaged people who do not own their own little patch of God's earth, a chance to express themselves and feed their families through the plots allocated to them. These gardens are truly democratic in that they are open to people regardless of age, ability, cultural or economic background and are allocated via queue system. The design decisions made are based on what is most easily available, is most useful.

Here is an array of garden art created within community gardens in Melbourne:

A wall made of terracotta tiles created by primary school children from Collingwood Secondary College


Primary school children used broken tile chips are incorporated into mosaics used to tile a utility area between garden beds


Recycled tyres, sample paint pots, re-used bricks and posts, seashells embedded in handmade terracotta tiles all strung together into a design plan, by under 12s


The fish - a symbol of prosperity in the 'Happy New Life' garden, Lennox St, Richmond, tended mainly by Vietnamese immigrants to Australia


A recyled toy doubles as a pot while adding a splash of colour


An old kitchen sink, clad in concrete and decorated with animal fgures finds new life as a water feature...


A glorious confusion of birdcage, wind chimes, climbing gourds, trailing succulents, non la ie conical Vietnamese hats(not shown) and a shiny red rexine clog (not shown)..


A mosaic handprint - created during a workshop in the garden


The general purpose area - the colour and object selection reflects the tastes of the people who use the area. It is a safe haven for them...


The Walkway - incorporates topiary and mosaic making skills learnt during workshops in the garden


Gumnuts festoon the boundaries of a Guerilla Garden in Fitzroy...

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