'Articulture' in the Gardens: Synergies Are Growing

By Dan Forbush

We saw a great demonstration of "articulture" yesterday at what we canhope will become the Annual Pitney Community Gardens Art Exhibit. Natalie Walsh and her fabulous team of volunteers pulled it all together.

As you may have seen in our Facebook live stream of yesterday, the event started with the Sunflower Growing Contest, awarding prizes (sunflower kites) to those growing the tallest sunflower and the one with the widest "face." The sunflowers were a major focus for the kids who took the art classes that Natalie organized; their drawings were hung on string in front of the sunflower patch.

After that, we had the tour of the "Fairy Village" that six troops of Girl Scouts have installed, decorating wooden birdhouses with such all-natural materials as wood, bark stone, and even seashells. They're working on merit badges in Painting and Outdoor Art in what we might call the first formal instructional program to be offered at the farm. 

Finally, we had the opportunity to view 25 photographs that Saratoga Springs photographer Tom Stock, whose studio is directly across West Avenue from the farm, selected as favorites among the hundreds he has taken on the farm over the years.

The Girl Scout community turned out in force, as did a number of local educators and others who see great potential in linking art and agriculture in creative ways. Some who attended were there at our public forum in March, where potential synergies between Pitney Farm and arts-oriented organizations and art-minded parents and students were brainstormed. Anne Diggory and Ardie Russell led the discussion, which was joined by eleven participants. Below are their conclusions. 


Ideas Generated

Programming Tied to Mission

Programming needs to be closely tied to the mission of the community farm and that can include events that bring people to the farm, furthering its outreach mission. It is easier to tie articulture activities and exhibitions to agriculture when they directly use farm imagery and materials, but some activities could be connected to traditional/historical farm life or could be more abstract/conceptual artwork that is inspired by the farm or farming. 

Arts that Intersect with Agriculture

  • Articulture connections can be made with almost all categories connected with the farm. They could include visual arts (crafts, fine arts, design such as tool making),performing arts (theater, music, movies), the written word (writing, reading). 
  • The programs/events can be for creating, appreciating, and learning directly about the art or for using the arts as an entrance to experiencing/appreciating an aspect of farming or farm life. 
  • The visual arts could include work inspired by this particular farm (images or site specific works), farming and farm products in general, folk art usually connected with a farm (candlemaking, soap making, etc.) 

Artistic Spaces

  • All the spaces could be used as locations, all the activities on the farm could inspire the arts or crafts or benefit from an art connection. A gallery space isn't necessary at first; things can happen in tents, out of doors (ex: plein air event, art along the trails, sponsored classes held elsewhere). 
  • Connecting with an educational thread, kids/ children/adults can use farm materials and subject matter in art and craft classes (maybe offsite at first until teaching spaces are available). 

Support for Fundraising

Articulture can attract people to the farm and events or sales could support fundraising ( a percentage of sales/receipts going to the farm). 

Music and Performances

  • Concerts of traditional music such as fiddling. We could hold a Jamming Together event for music and making Jam! 
  • Folk music event centered around farming songs ("This farm is my farm....This farm is your farm") 
  • Opera outside, following a trail, around the silo (has been done at SPAC) 
  • Barn Dance. A good floor would have to be part of the performance space) 
  • Show outdoor movies on the side of the barn, with farm themes (documentary or entertainment. Grapes of Wrath

 Linkages Between Agriculture and Art Forms

  • Harvest festival - harvested foods, music, crafts, art, etc all together - Example of Saratoga Apple's events | design the community garden for visual impact: Ex: flower gardens ringing the outside | link with history focus 
  • Preserving the past with farm equipment design (there are collectors of barbed wire!), photography, stories 
  • Fundraising: a shop where art/crafts are for sale with % to farm 
  • Visual art exhibit tied to agriculture as a "signature event" could start offsite | wine - tasting and hard cider along with making art (taste the grapes, paint the grapes) | classes related to any of the ideas in brainstorming

Visual Arts/Crafts

  • Sheep/wool - harvesting wool, dying wool, making things from wool, making art from wool 
  • Dried gourds - how to dry them, painting them 
  • Making art from farm materials (cornstalks, wool, grasses, flowers etc) 
  • The art of flower arranging (connected with community gardens?) 
  • Traditional crafts of farmers - candle making, rug-hooking etc 
  • Pumpkin carving 
  • Painting/drawing/sculpture/ceramics/photography - classes focused on the farm or farm products 
  • Painting/drawing/sculpture/photography/ceramics - artists at work around the farm as part of a festival I. Juried show based on farms/farming 
  • Site specific art (sculpture or conceptual art) along the trails. See UC Santa Barbara campus wide art trail that brought in History
  • The art of landscape design 
  • Sustainable theme - art from recycled farm materials, tools. Don't throw away any farm equipment as the farm gets developed! 
  • Invite colleges, high school to connect art classes to the farm - photography, painting, etc 
  • Exhibit contrasting how outsiders see a farm and how farmers/workers see a farm 

 Written Word

Poetry and other literary readings related to farming B. Writing classes focused on farming 


Resources/Partners

  • Saratoga Arts Council
  •  Saratoga County Agricultural district , Ballston spa - county planner 
  • Saratoga County Soil and Water Conservation District 
  • School and college art departments 
  • School and college writing classes 
  • Cooperative extension classes 
  • Scouts for arts badges 
  • Caffé Lena - location for readings, concerts, 
  • SPAC - linkage of programming - ballet on the farm? Remember the tractor dance at the end of Swan Lake Minnesota
  • EOC - does a photography exhibit with back stretch workers - how about with farm hands? 
  • Saratoga Opera - music along the trails, around the silo

Questions/Concerns/Recommendations

  • Start with lower cost, lower facility use, lower difficulty projects 
  • An outdoor event that wouldn't involve facilities would be a Plein Aire event , inviting both artists and those who like to see artists at work. Exhibit of works could raise money..... 
  • Concern that the visual arts eventually include artwork inspired by the space and the farming activities, without having actual farm products or spaces portrayed.. 
  • Keep in mind other art/farm events in the area so as not to compete (Saratoga Apple Festival, Washington County Art for Farmsake)

Participants

  • Ardie Russell, Session Leader
  •  Anne Diggory, Session Leader
  • Nedra Stimpfle
  •  Martha Strohl
  •  Nancy Knapik
  •  Douglas Durning
  •  Janet Pagano
  •  Frank Orsini
  •  Susan Philbin
  •  Victoria Garlanda
  •  Cindy Spence

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A member of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm Board of Directors, Dan Forbush chairs the Community Outreach Committee and heads the team that produces Around the Silo.