D.C.’s second annual By the People arts festival is coming our way. The citywide arts celebration is filling all four quadrants in D.C. with a mixture of international, national and local art. From art barges in the middle of the Potomac to Smithsonian takeovers, it’s going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The festival officially kicks off on Saturday (and goes until June 23), but in order to get you excited for everything to come, we did a little digital correspondence with plant expert / artist Stevie Famulari. Read all about her favorite gardening tips, the piece she’s bringing to D.C. and how she balances her love for science, fashion, food and nature
How did you get involved with By the People? What are you creating for the festival?
I applied! I responded to the open call for artists and was invited to participate. I encourage all artists to apply to projects they feel drawn to. My artwork is titled “Engaging Urban Greening.” The need for diverse and unique planting designs has been discounted for short term financial gain. The effect has been detrimental not only to the larger environment, but also to those living and working in it. “Engaging Urban Greening” explores unique ideas relating to the largely depreciated plant community and celebrates the values which plants add to the environment and all those who inhabit it. The installation features multiple colors of seeded papers in abstract forms that create a quilted covering of the fountain in the Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building rotunda. Visitors are encouraged to take petals of seeded paper – living works of art – to plant in their own neighborhoods. Giving people the gift of plants is intended to encourage green design and help make greenery accessible in all spaces.
What does “greening” mean to you?
The active role of creating healthy environments for animals and people. From green walls in work places to large-scale green solutions relating to storm water, green designs look at the users, the environment and the needs of both. “Greening” may mean aesthetically beautiful designs as well as the remediation of contaminants in the air, soil and water. In other words, a healthy environment for all. We are all creators of spaces, research, interior environments, exterior spaces, events, applied research, and community dialogues. Greening does work that betters the lives of the people in it through active and unique plantings and other healthy design choices.
Your art combines science, fashion, food and nature. How do you keep everything in balance? How does one feed into the other?
Balance is a great goal for life. For me, the goal is to have a peaceful balance in both life and thought – and let it show up in my art. Balancing health, spirituality, relationships and career is a dance that shifts in wonderful ways.
Also, I balance my life through daily meditation. All of this affects my art. The result: I’m not pigeon-holed into a single medium or statement. I love that.
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What’s your favorite plant?
There are far too many to name them! One of my favorite trees by name and aesthetic choice is an Empress Tree, a Paulownia tomentosa. My childhood favorite flower was a white daisy, though I like a dark, dark red or black Calla lily. The devil’s walking stick is a fun plant with its twists and turns in growth. And Alternanthera vines in reds and pinks are stunning. I could go on and on! There are far too many!
You work in a variety of mediums. What comes first, the medium or the idea/theme of the piece?
Inspiration comes from so many directions and sources. I keep a sketchbook with me constantly and have had countless ones over the years. When an idea comes – whatever may have inspired it – I sketch it out, write it down or do something else to get it out, and then get on to the next idea. Then, a client, project, event, or funding comes along, and the ideas come flooding to the surface and into fruition.
Why should people bring more greening into their lives?
Greening celebrates process, time, change and growth. I remember someone said to me, “no product is worth a bad process,” yet we spend more of our time in process than product. Greening, planting, greening design celebrate process and reflect time and healing. Consider seasonal changes, older trees, plants passed from one person to another for decades, seeds from different cultures, cracks in the sidewalk where plants take over, plants growing after disasters. Plants heal and reflect the passage of time and are good for us in so many ways.
What’s the best gardening tip you know?
To enjoy the process of gardening and how it allows us to spend time with our thoughts. Oh, and to plant paper into the ground or in a planter with notes about what you want to manifest in your life. Water the notes along with the plant. It’s great feeling to see it all grow.