DescriptionSunflower Village, a community garden in the Franklin Square neighborhood of Baltimore, has been growing strong since 2010, when the Franklin Square Community Association decided to take over a large abandoned lot. Several years before, five houses stood where the Sunflower Village now resides. When they were torn down, all that remained was the neglected lot. The Franklin Square Community Association decided to use the lot to create a much-needed green space.
Volunteers constructed a large wood chip pathway that winds through the garden, and reused granite from city sidewalks was used to create a threshold, steps, and even a bench. With the planting of “Sunflower Mountain”—a raised bed planting of towering sunflowers—the garden came to life, and the sunflower theme that now dominates the garden emerged.
Eager to further enhance their new garden at Franklin Square, Scott Kashnow of Franklin Square Community Association approached Ed Miller of the Civic Works Community Lot Team, the FSCA’s partner organization in the garden project, with the idea of incorporating art into the garden. Miller immediately asked the Can Collective (artists Emily C-D, Jessie Unterhalter, and Katey Truhn) if they would like to create a proposal for an art installation.
Can Collective submitted a grant proposal to the PNC Transformative Art Project (now known as the PNC Transformative Art Prize). When they received a $20,000 dollar TAP Grant, Can Collective quickly commenced work on the multimedia art installation that has come to define the Sunflower Village.
The most eye-catching parts of the installation are the two three-story-tall rectangular sunflower-themed murals that face one another from opposite ends of the garden. Created with paint and a mosaic of salvaged mirror, they occupy the walls of the adjacent buildings that were left standing after the five houses that previously occupied the space were torn down. The murals are unified by strings of sunflower-seed-shaped flags held up by totem poles.
Can Collective created the designs for the sunflower murals with input from community members of the Franklin Square neighborhood. The first phase of the project, creating the murals, took place over three months in the summer of 2012. At three stories high, Can Collective and community volunteers had to construct scaffolding in order for the work to even begin. For safety reasons, local children could not help paint except on the ground level, so in order to engage them in the art making process, Can Collective taught screenprinting workshops to create the fabric flags. The second phase of the project took place in the spring of 2013, and consisted of the installation and decoration of three twenty-foot totem poles that could now hold up the strings of flags connecting the two murals.
The Sunflower Village is a collaboration between the Franklin Square Community Association and the Civic Works Community Lot Team, as well as a number of friendly neighborhood volunteers. Can Collective brought their creative spirit to the community garden and worked with youth from The Franklin Square Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and the St. Luke’s Church Summer Camp to complete their project.
-Story written by Ashlie Flood, Smithsonian Gardens 2014 Katzenberger intern, with contributions from Emily C-D.