By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – A local businessman is in the process of turning his gardening centre into a living art gallery. Cory Cherdarchuk of First Choice Tree Nursery and Garden Centre, located just outside of Morinville, is hosting Art in the Garden, an annual celebration of outdoor art that begins tomorrow and runs for the next three weeks.
“The idea around Art in the Garden is just people being able to explore the idea of a garden being more than just a garden, but entering into the world of art,” Cherdarchuk said, adding that gardens can be admired as much as any piece of art one would see in a museum.
In fact it was a visit to New York where Cherdarchuk had the opportunity to tour some of the finest art museums in the world that he became inspired to launch the annual event that has taken on a life of its own.
“I was able to experience the grandeur of art,” he said. “I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walked for eight hours and was just completely mesmerized. And even after eight hours I hadn’t seen it all. In particular I was struck by an Asian art exhibit there. And just being around pieces of art and sculpture that are 4,000 years old really sort of humbles you in some sense.”
Cherdarchuk said he came away with a sense of his place in the world and began thinking about what he could do and use to create art.
The gardening expert and artist said that Alberta is uniquely poised to experiment with outdoor artistry because of the expansive yards and outdoor public spaces.
“We don’t utilize their potential as places of inspiration,” Cherdarchuk said. “So that sort of got me thinking, we have art in our homes, why can’t we have art in our gardens? I’m a big believer in the utilization of the outdoor space [and] of bringing the indoors outdoors.”
Cherdarchuk said that finding art for the garden is not difficult, as there are many sculptors, painters and other artisans who specialize in creating outdoor art. Several artists and their creations will be on hand during Art in the Garden, including Cherdarchuk’s own specialty, floral dresses.
“The dresses in particular become Hort Couture fashions (as we like to call them) which are custom living art that I create using outdoor materials, fabrics, plants,” Cherdarchuk said, adding that it creates something unusual and unexpected for the garden.
But the Gabbing Gardener – as he is known to many of his customers – is quick to point out that garden art need not be as elaborate as his Hort Couture fashions.
“It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a piece of art,” Cherdarchuk said. “Maybe it’s how you look at your garden beds. Maybe it’s how you use colour. Maybe think of a tree, rather than just a tree you’re plunking in the soil, to be something more architectural, something that’s actually going to create some sculptural sense and feeling in your garden space.”
Cherdarchuk said the process is as much about changing the way people think about their gardens as it is transforming the garden itself.
“Nothing wrong with those garden gnomes, but I think there’s so much more,” Cherdarchuk said, pointing out the work of sculptor Douglas Walker who created a commissioned piece using found objects, including saxophones to create a water fountain.”
Visitors to Art in the Garden will have the opportunity to see Cherdarchuk’s floral dresses and Walker’s found art water fountain, as well as art for the garden surrounding them at every turn. Cherdarchuk said that both indoors and outdoors are transformed into an art gallery with the work of six to eight local artists who work in a variety of mediums.
“It’s really just a wandering experience,” he said. It’s taking a moment to stop and think; to realize that you are looking at something more than just a flower – that you are actually looking at nature. And nature for me is one of the truest forms of artiste in our society and our world.”
Art in the Garden runs June 25 to July 18 at First Choice Tree Nursery and Garden Centre, during regular business hours.