Trowel & Error


From work horse to work of art

Painted, planted wheelbarrows help the community grow

By Nancy Crowe
To a gardener, a wheelbarrow is a pretty standard tool. You use it to haul one load of mulch after another from your driveway to the backyard garden bed, transport bagged soil from car to garden and move plants around when you just can’t decide where they belong. So when you set out to turn a bunch of wheelbarrows into creative, artistic container gardens, you’re bound to get your hands dirty in the best possible way.

Catherine Kasper Place coordinated the World on Wheels project in a joint effort with the Downtown Improvement District and local artists, gardeners, organizations and businesses. Artists partnered with representatives from 22 ethnic groups or nationalities who call Fort Wayne home.

“We had a set of rules at the beginning,” said Holly Chaille, executive director of Catherine Kasper Place. “It had to be a functional container garden.”

But artists, like gardeners, don’t always follow rules, and one exception after another kept cropping up. Ultimately, it was about the artist’s vision.

The public got its first glimpse of the wheelbarrows at the Taste of the Arts festival in August. The wheelbarrow representing the Philippines, designed by Bonnie Manning, was decked out in gold and covered with luminous glass beads and pearls. The Ethiopian wheelbarrow was covered in mosaic tiles and featured a lovely, icon-like portrait. The one from Colombia was painted with a tranquil sailboat scene. The wheelbarrow representing Burma was pre-“planted” with brilliantly painted and dotted flowers made from recycled vinyl records.

After they were planted with food crops and flowers appropriate to the regions they represented, most of the wheelbarrows went on display just inside the north gate at Parkview Field.

A few of the gardeners had placed their plants directly in the soil-filled wheelbarrows; others used containers and set them inside the wheelbarrows. Bosnia had red peppers in a container. Colombia had pepper plants in burlap. Ireland had purple and green shamrock and kale, with a couple of potatoes poking out of the soil. A tap, which was actually a working soaker hose, was the centerpiece.

“They’ve just done an amazing job — the artists, the gardeners, everyone,” Chaille said.

The creations were auctioned off at the International Blast event in late September.

The auction raised $5,900. These funds support Catherine Kasper Place, which helps immigrants and refugees get settled and integrated into the community. One of its programs is the Fresh Food Initiative, through which clients grow and market their own produce.

Chaille said she is proud of the way the city’s diverse cultures and nationalities have come together for World on Wheels: “I couldn’t be more thrilled at the way people now know what we do.”

Nancy Crowe

Posted Wed, 01/23/2013 - 1:47 pm