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Arts: Shaw Guild’s pressed flowers displays are inspired by ‘The Secret Garden’
Inspired by the production of "The Secret Garden," spaces around the Shaw Festival are blooming with flowers as art in unique displays created by some of the Shaw Guild's volunteers. Inspired by the production of "The Secret Garden," spaces around the Shaw Festival are blooming with flowers as art in unique displays created by some of the Shaw Guild's volunteers. Pictured, from left, are: Shaw designer Judith Bowden, Elaine Evans, Arlene Carson, Margret Walker, Lorraine Horton, Janet Ennamorato, Patricia Pehar, Kim Mustill, Libby Bullock, Susan MacDonald, Lesley Walsh, Sylvie van Wissen, Debbie Steley, Kathy Goulding, Louanne Lynch, Heather MacNeil and Mary Mizen. SUPPLIED
An example of some of the pressed flowers on display thanks to the work of Shaw Guild volunteers. SUPPLIED

Susan MacDonald
Special to The Lake Report

Imagine artwork made of pressed flowers that’s unveiled at the opening of the Shaw’s production of “The Secret Garden” and continues to grow throughout the run of the play.

That was the challenge the festival’s community engagement and outreach department asked the Shaw Guild — the theatre’s volunteer organization — to take on.

As a result, spaces around the Shaw Festival are blooming with flowers as art in unique displays created by some of the guild’s 400 volunteers.

The Secret Garden Shaw Guild Art Project is one of several Shaw programs that aim to use live arts to connect with the community.

With the guidance of Shaw Festival designer Judith Bowden, volunteers have built works of art that consist of pressed flower pieces from seasonal leaves and flowers they collected.

The art installation is designed to represent the four seasons of the year.

The first three — winter, spring and summer — are now on display in the gallery behind the Royal George Theatre for patrons to enjoy when they attend Shaw Beyond the Stage programs.

As guests walk to the studio, they can see flowers in colourful pots and birdhouses along the path set up by Shaw Guild gardeners.

Small versions of the pressed-flower art installation are also in the lobbies of the Royal George and Festival theatres.

Two satellite displays are available for the public to enjoy at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library and the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre.

The pressed-flower art project began in March. Flowers were first pressed onto pre-treated fabric in a process guided by Bowden.

The material was then cut in squares, attached to cardboard and sewn by hand for a selection of pieces to assemble and display. The project will continue in late summer to complete a fall section for the gallery.

“The Secret Garden,” onstage until Oct. 13, is based on the English novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

It tells the story of faith and healing through the rejuvenation of an abandoned, hidden garden. But it is more than a classic for families to sit in the theatre and enjoy.

In addition to the Shaw Guild art project, pre-show workshops and the volunteer-created special garden spaces allow patrons and the Niagara-on-the-Lake community to experience the joy of nature in varied ways.

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