Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category


Seven years ago, I condensed all of my hopes and visions for The Art Garden into the following Mission Statement:

The Art Garden seeks to create a nurturing, non-judgmental and inspirational environment where people of all ages and experience can engage in the creative process and the exploration and exchange of ideas through individual and collaborative art-making.  Relationships between materials, images, ideas, self, and community are cultivated with questioning, poetic vision and social/ecological consciousness.

I am so delighted that this statement IS TRUE about our work AND that it can be seen in the tiny Art Garden Alphabet book that is part of our 2016 annual appeal mailing!


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Every end-of-the-year we send out a visually embellished envelope, collaboratively written letter and small visual ‘gift’ that reflects on what we have accomplished in the past year, and who we are. Our hope is that the ‘who we are’  is conveyed not only in the words and images, but also in the physical form and sensual experience of a mostly hand-made gesture.

Thank you Laura, John, Elisabeth, Cheryl, Ardath, Kristen, Sam, Kate, Cosima and Reed for helping cut and glue art-stamps and fold, score and hand-bind over 500 tiny alphabet books!


Thanks also to Honey Bunny for her patient supervising!


Thank you Art Garden board members Kate Bailey, Candace Bradbury-Carlin, John Hoffman, Laura Iveson and James Smith for your collaboration and commitment to The Art Garden and our good work.

Thank you also to all of our [over 200 and growing!] individual supporters!
We would not be here without you.


If you would like to receive our 2016 mailing please email your name and address to csartgarden@gmail.com.
If you would like to support The Art Garden’s work, you can make a secure contribution using our donate button on this website.
You can also send a check (made out to The Art Garden) to our mailing address:
The Art Garden, 4 Union St, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.


Good work = Light in the world!

Do good work!

Be the light our world needs in 2017!



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photo by Elaine Boucher

“What the World Needs Now” performance by Phyllis Labanowski and a group of intrepid Art Garden volunteers, 2014. Photo by Elaine Boucher.

May 3, 2016 is The Art Garden’s 5-year 501c3 Anniversary!

WE made it!
WE painted, sculpted, sewed, drew and collaged it!
WE invented, designed, organized, coordinated, collaborated,
and fund-raised it!

WE = you + me + The Art Garden’s hard-working Board of Directors
+ hundreds of people supporting our work with so many GIFTS:
donations of supplies, money and time…
all of us coming together to make The Art Garden truly
a Community-Supported Art-making place!


As a happy coincidence,

May 3, 2016 is also Valley Gives Day here in western Massachusetts.

Our Valley Gives fund-raising this year is dedicated to supporting our
2016-2017 ARTeens program.


Your support will make a difference in the lives of rural creative teens!

Please help make another year of this amazing Teen Art program possible
by donating here on May 3rd:




A very special thank you goes to artist and non-profit attorney Peter Chadwick, who first suggested our becoming a non-profit in 2010. He all but held our hands as he shepherded us through the legal process with kindness, skill and lots of clarifying emails. We are so grateful, Peter!

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During our last Community Exhibit, the 6 year-old grandson of one of our volunteers visited The Art Garden for the first time. He walked thoughtfully around the studio, asking questions as he looked at everything: the different supplies, images, objects, and variety of art works in the exhibit.

photo by Rick Miller

photo by Rick Miller

One of the pieces, titled “My Shoeless Soul”, caught his attention, and I asked him if he knew what a soul was.

“It’s what makes you YOU!” he replied, without a moment’s hesitation.


I wrote that down…
so that each day…
when I come into The Art Garden…
I am reminded:

what we do is



And strengthens us for the work of making this world a better place.

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

—from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963


Because winter can be a time for ‘going inward’, I encourage you to carve out time and space in this season for exploring who you are through your creativity.
If it leads you to The Art Garden, we’ll be delighted to see you!


Happy New Year!


For more about creativity:




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Art Garden board member Laura Iveson
(who co-directs all of The Art Garden’s festival and parade work)
organized and coordinated a HUGE-ly successful community art event
at the Cowell Gym in Shelburne Falls on April 11th, 2015.


Here is a beautiful reflection about the Fabulous Hilltown Draw-Around,
written by Laura’s partner, James Smith
(who was also a tireless volunteer and shameless promoter.)

From left to right: Mark, Kate, James, Jane, Laura, Robin…still smiling the next day!

From left to right: Mark, Kate, James, Jane, Laura, Robin…still smiling the next day!

“This new regional event is a seedling carried by Laura Iveson
from the New Orleans annual 24-hour Drawathon.

MandalaBeginnings4blogLaura’s vision is to nurture a uniquely Hilltown version
of the lively arts, magic, and most of all community
that planted New Orleans so indelibly in our hearts and imaginations
during our 20-year residence there.

photo credit: John Snyder

photo credit: John Snyder

Where better to grow a vision like that than The Art Garden,
which has already done so much to establish
a welcoming, supportive arts community
in this corner of the world?


Pencil crowns go to Draw-Around Divas: Phyllis Labanowski (ARTeens co-director), Laura Iveson (our fabulous Draw-Around Organizer and all-around troubleshooter) and Jane Beatrice Wegscheider (Art Garden director)

The Art Garden family embraced Laura’s idea fully
and provided infrastructure, guidance, big hearts,
and capable hands to help make it happen.


After much hard work we remained worried until the last minute
that no one would risk a Saturday to see just what the heck a Draw-Around is,


but several hundred doodlebugs from all over the Hilltowns
showed healthy curiosity and an admirable sense of whimsy
by stopping in to draw on the walls
and lay on the papered floor for hours with friends, family, and strangers,
talking, dreaming, and creating
4000 square feet of gorgeous art. 

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The Draw-Around was solidly attended from noon til midnight.
Participants donated generously
enough to fund a large portion of The Art Garden’s ARTeens program this season.
The proceeds allow for even stronger programming in the next session,
and help The Art Garden ensure
that no ARTeens participant is prevented from participating for lack of funds.




(present, former and possible future)










to F I N I S H !!!


I was deeply moved by the way the aptly named Draw-Around
drew people together, head-to-head,
to engage in a novel and powerful collaboration.

photo credit: John Snyder

photo credit: John Snyder

The sheer audacity of the venture
– covering 12 hours and 4000 square feet of paper with imagination and dialogue –
disrupts the many routines of day-to-day life
in a way that provokes
fresh shared perspectives, bonding, and true community.

What a glorious way to welcome in the spring.

DApan4blog DotArtFamily4blog

Eleven-year-old emerging artist, Katie Martin (mother and older child drawing on right) was inspired by  Colrain artist, Suzanne Conway's mother and baby drawing above it!

Eleven-year-old emerging artist, Katie Martin (mother and older child drawing on right) was inspired by Colrain artist, Suzanne Conway’s mother and baby drawing above it!

People have told me the event’s magic sustained them days later,
and that like me, they are already dreaming about next year’s
Second Annual Art Garden Fabulous Hilltown Draw-Around.”   — James Smith


Thank you to everyone who made this event so amazing!

JadensIllusion4blogThe list of
thank you‘s

is longer than this

optical illusion drawing

made by teen artist,

Jaden Skelly.

You may want to start at the bottom and scroll up to see how it looked.


Angie Arahood

David Arfa

Brook Batteau

Candace Bradbury-Carlin

Molly Cantor

Valerie Caro

Sonny Crawford

Susannah Crolius

Laura Davis

Kelly Flaherty

Brendan Flannelly-King

& Eamon

Joanna Goodman

Emily Gopen

Katie Hennessey

Cosima Hewes

Cara Hochhalter

John Hoffman

Robin Huntley

Liz Jacobsen-Carroll

David Jensen

Phyllis Labanowski

Jen Martin

Cheli Mennella

Rick Miller

Diana Noble

Mark Ostroff

Colleen Rauch

Crisabeth Shearer
& Lauren Veaudry
from Greenfield Savings Bank

James Smith

Kate Snyder

Kristen Strange

Alethea Tschetterwood

Frances Whistler

Karen Willard

Betty Z-A & Tucker


Aubuchon, BJ’s, Brass Buckle, Buckland Pizza, Casey’s Pizza, Cowell Gym, Franklin Community Coop, Fosters, Hager Brothers, Home Depot, Mo’s Fudge Factory, Mother’s, Real Pickles, Shelburne Coffee Roasters, Staples, Trinity Church & Turley Publications!

Thank you Angie Arahood for creating this amazing Request-A-Sketch!

Thank you Angie Arahood for creating this amazing Request-A-Sketch!

Children and adults put a sketch request in a slot

Children and adults put sketch requests in a slot under the doors…

And within SECONDS or minutes, the doors sprung open, and a sketch was delivered…in a cuckoo's beak!

Within seconds, doors sprung open, & a sketch was delivered…in a cuckoo’s beak!

THANK YOU ARTeens (present, former and possible future):
Dylan, Erin, Jeff, Jennieke, Isabelle, Micah, Mikayla, Rhiannon & Tori
for WELCOMING everyone, explaining our pay-what-you-can model,
and for sharing what the ARTeens program means to you!


THANK YOU ARTeens co-director
and graphic messenger extraordinaire
Phyllis Labanowski
for creating such a great entry into the event!


Thank you to our community for your generosity!

Thank you Emmy for starting us off with such a generous and inspiring donation!


We are a Community Supported Art-making place!

And we are so glad to support our community with events like this!


Thank you! Laura Iveson!!!
for your creativity and perseverence, your vision and hard work,
your collaboration and willingness to dive into daunting projects.
YOU are fabulous (especially in that dashing hospital blue smock!)

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Five years ago, on the Winter Solstice of 2009, I officially launched The Art Garden and this website with a slightly sloppier version of this image. My The Art garden is open! email began with:

I’m sending this announcement out on the longest night of the year (or almost)…a bit of Light, I hope, in a season when light and dark do their undulating dance in each of us.


The Art Garden has done it’s own undulating dance over these five years; always holding to a core vision that integrates art-making, community-building, sustainable living, creative exploration, social practice, self-direction and the cultivation of a nurturing, non-judgmental environment.


Goethe’s words are no less applicable than they were in 2009. Every day is a beginning! This work of making and being…creating art…creating community…creating ourselves!      What a joy!      What a challenge!      What a dance!


Thanks to the collaboration, participation, enthusiasm, encouragement, financial support and hard work of so many, The Art Garden is now firmly rooted!



We wish you a very Happy Season of Light!




with love and gratitude,


Doll made at The Art Garden by Edite Cunha

Jane-doll made by Edite Cunha

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Quote from Sister Corita Kent

Quote from Sister Corita Kent

At this time of year, it seems like time is a balloon, stretching almost to bursting. And even if what we fill our shorter days and longer nights with is good…
it can often feel like too much.

This morning I am imagining my particular balloon NOT filled with a confetti of
to-do’s…but rather, the expansive breath of a quiet moment outside,
and the air of delight when I make something…
my lovely morning coffee,
and this little bit of reflection.

On November 22nd, The Art Garden was part of a community-service learning event coordinated by Hilltown Families in Northampton. Artist-board member Laura Iveson and I set up a L-O-N-G work station where children (and their adults!) could paint paper placemats to be donated to local senior centers.

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Even in the midst of what might be considered a hubbub,
creative focus slowed things down.

The magic of painting…
the act of brushing physical color around on a surface…
the do-and-respond…
the idea taking shape, or emerging in the process
(no matter what each person’s skill level)…
was calming,
and satisfying.

107 beautiful and wildly different placemats were made in 3 hours!
What a balloon!

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On September 21, 2014, 400,000 people participated in the People’s Climate March in New York City.










three Art Workers


The Art Garden:


Valerie Caro, Phyllis Labanowski, and Jane Beatrice Wegscheider.


[Besides the unflattering hard hats] we wore and carried 75 ribbons

from our What Do You Love About the Deerfield River? public art installation.










had the latin

and common names

of endangered,

special concern,



invasive species

from our watershed

written on them.

Phyllis wore the key

on her backpack.









 real birds









 to many faces

 (including ours)!


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It was exciting to be a part of such a well-organized, engaged, diverse, and creative display of activism and LOVE!

Please join us at our first 2014-2015 Art For A Change workshop in November. We will focus on the climate issues before us, and how we, as artists, activists, and community members, have and can address them.

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