Often times when we look at urban front yards, we typically observe them in two ways. First, there is the manicured mowed lawn. Then there is the yard that is essentially a garden. Of course there are variations of the two, and occasionally a homeowner is so bold as to incorporate a work of public art into the mix, but for the most part we don’t tend to over thing our front yards. The backyard in Buffalo is a different story, but unless the house is on the Garden Walk, we tend to not know what sorts of interesting projects people are working on.
Yesterday I was invited to witness the transformations of a front yard that will soon become a public art garden at a private residence. When I arrived to 47 Bidwell Parkway, Claire Schneider, founder of CS1 Curatorial Projects (designed to facilitate creative art projects in unexpected spaces), was busy orchestrating an art garden undertaking that would make anyone with a green thumb and a passion for art proud. You see, Claire has decided to pay tribute to the house that she bought in 2007 by creating a front yard that mimics the architectural elements of the house and the historic nature of the Olmsted Parkway where it resides.
In order to pull off this forward thinking project, Claire first needed an artist that understood the vision, and a landscape designer that could pull off the undertaking (called Territory of Collaboration). It was local artist Alfonso Volo who was chosen as the mastermind behind the unusual landscape project. “I want the garden to reflect its surroundings,” Alfonso told me. “The templates for the beds were drawn up to reflect the Victorian elements of the house. Even the leaves of the plants are related to the scalloped shapes of the shingles. I studied the house and all of its artistic elements. Then I came up with templates for the art garden, which will feature everything from a rain garden (for the water diverted from the house) to a garden navel that will be an untouched meadow (a tribute to Olmsted himself).” Alfonso’s works have been featured at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center – Play’s Ways, 2011, High Line, NYC – The Other End of the Line, 2010, Hallwalls – Thrifting For Beauty, 2009, Albright-Knox Art Gallery – Beyond/In Western New York 2007, and U.B. Art Gallery, Harbourfront Center, Maryland Art Place, Big Orbit, among others.
Once Claire set her sights on Alfonso, she then set out to track down a landscape designer who could pull off the whimsical vision. It was Matthew Dore who answered the calling. With 26 years in the industry, and projects ranging from the Central Terminal to the Buffalo Medical Campus and the Larkin Building, Matt’s theoretical exploration of the landscape was the perfect fit to ensure that the work of art would indeed become a reality. “I’ve taken a prolific artist and tasked him with creating something that will be a living sculpture,” Claire told me. “Then I retained the services of an incredibly talented landscape gardener to bring the public work to life. The garden will have seasonal blooms, edible plants (asparagus, blueberries, etc.), a sharing garden (for the neighborhood), and even a duck-rabbit topiary that signifies the shifts in nature and the changing forms of our natural environment.”
Claire is also in the process of researching the appropriate Victorian color palette for the house. As the garden begins to morph into a living sculpture, the facade of the house will be rejuvenated to complement the changes below.
On Saturday, June 7, CS1 Curatorial Projects invites people to come see Territory of Collaboration in person, as part of an open studio. The green infrastructure project, in the spirit of Robert Irwin’s Getty Garden, will hopefully inspire the community to look at artistic, environmentally sensitive, landscape architecture in a different way. It is also the hope that others might take away (literally and physically) elements from the project. “We are paying tribute to the house, the neighborhood and nature,” Claire pointed out. “From the conical cupola, the pointed ellipses of the stained glass windows, and the tulip shape of the lamppost… other elements include smoke, steam, flowing water – the work even highlights a secret space under the porch – you can see it all mirrored in the garden.”
Territory of Collaboration is being planted in phases through the summer of 2014.
Please gather on Saturday, June 7, 2014:
8AM-12NOON @ 47 Bidwell Pwky to see the early progress and share perennial plants.
Nigella and grass lagurus ovatus will be offered in exchange.
Drawings and plans by Al Volo and Matt Dore will be on display.
About CS1 Curatorial Projects (see Facebook)
CSI was founded by Claire Schneider in 2013 to facilitate creative art projects in unexpected spaces. Debuted at the Echo Art Fair, its focus is on realizing projects that viewers can actively engage, participate, and collaborate in to realize work. Chris Barr’s Meaningful Offers invited fairgoers to barter their services for art. meaningfuloffers.com. Lynne McCabe and Colleen Stillwell’s Eat Your Hearts Out: A Sensual Migration through Buffalos’ Past, Present and Future reimagined Buffalo’s Irish and industrial history, its farm-to-table present, and bright future through food and text. CS1 is presently working with Dennis Maher and Chef Stillwell on a nine-course processional tasting throughout the fantastic rooms of Maher’s art and architectural oasis the Fargo House. A long-time museum curator, Schneider most recently organized the traveling exhibition More Love: Art, Politics, and Sharing since the 1990s, 2013. Previous projects include: Extreme Abstraction and Beyond/In Western New York 2007 (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art 1998-2008), Seriously Funny and Architecture + Art: 90 Days Over 100° (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Senior Curator 2008-2010). A Nashville native, she received degrees in art history from Tufts University (BA) and Williams College (MA). She is a founding Board Member of Urban Roots Community Garden Center in Buffalo, NY.