Garden of marigolds In the fields at Bishop Allotment. Photo by Angela Walcott

Embracing the Power of Community Through ‘The People’s Garden’

September 12, 2022

Creative in Residence, Angela Walcott, educates the public on sustainable gardening through her upcoming program

Angela Walcott Smiling

Angela Walcott, a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist and Ontario Culture Days Creative in Residence, believes it’s important to highlight the power of community, especially when it comes to gardening and food security.

“They’re the ones who can really inform and make the decisions about [these] practices,” she says.

That’s why she’s creating “The People’s Garden”, an upcoming interactive program for the Ontario Culture Days Festival.

For Walcott, it’s a way to break down knowledge barriers on sustainable gardening and food security, themes that have been ever-present in her recent work, while also reminding the community of the power they hold to make environmental changes.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to producing a crop [for instance],” she says. “Sometimes that misunderstanding gets in the way. It’s a lot easier than we think.

“It’s [also] fascinating how we’re separated in language and race but food can bind us together.”

Over the course of three events, Walcott plans on showcasing these themes of community, gardening and food security, through her multidisciplinary work. She plans on interviewing farming communities within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and then journaling her observations while also creating podcasts for people to listen to. Workshops at Ocala Winery and Orchard in Port Perry, the Deeply Rooted Farmers Market in Toronto, St. Lawrence Market, and the Black Creek Community Farm, also located in Toronto will be held for the community. At these workshops, community members can learn how to do textile designs, eco painting and image transfers.

Walcott believes being outside among nature is key for these workshops. “It’s all about getting your hands a little bit dirty and just enjoying the space and environment,” she says. “It’s important that we respect the environment, get to know it better and not be afraid to interact with nature.”

Art of blue and white flowers on a white background
Layered Floral Study, Angela Walcott 2022

Besides interviewing farmers across the GTA, Walcott also took part in farming herself, as a way to learn and convey growing food in her art.

“Oh my gosh, it’s really hard work,” she says. “I admire farmers. I don’t know how they do it. But I admire the way they produce healthy food for us.”

Watercolor art of a person standing in a greenhouse
Noel At the Farm, Watercolour, Angela Walcott 2022

Walcott wasn’t always a multidisciplinary artist. She first started out as a freelance writer before dabbling into other art forms. After taking a break from writing, a practice she was doing for years, Walcott took a watercolour painting class to which she was immediately drawn. From there on she took on more art classes of other forms at Central Technical School – The Art Centre, like ceramics, oil painting and mixed media, which she says “provided the foundation for the training of traditional art.”

“I came to these other practices a lot later in life than most people,” she says.

Food sustainability and gardening became incorporated into her work much later, towards the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she says. For Walcott, it was during this time that a lot of uncertainties and social movements were happening at once, which changed her perspective on life. For one, she realized the importance of being outdoors.

There was a point in the first wave where we weren’t allowed to go outdoors. There was this dome of uncertainty,” she says. “I thought, ‘how do I get through this?’ I created an indoor garden in my house. I started plants from seed and as they emerged into seedlings I felt a sense of relief. I knew that despite everything that was out of control, I at least had some over this. As the restrictions started to lift, I saw this as a window of opportunity. This represented a ‘second chance’, an opportunity to start fresh and new.”

That’s when she also realized gardening was an art form in itself, that also impacted her other art disciplines, like writing and painting. For Walcott, not only did gardening clear her mind when it came to her writing and visual art, but it also revealed the importance of incorporating community through her work, while also making it more sustainable.

“Gardening may not be an art form in the traditional sense but it gives us the opportunity to relax and reflect. Those are important elements of the artistic practice,” she says.

In addition to gardening, it was also social movements like the resurgence of Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 that impacted the way she thought about society. As a member of a visible minority, the social injustices, oppression and societal expectations and historical misrepresentation of the Black community were brought to the forefront. To top it all off, the uncertainty of “what comes next,” at the beginning of the pandemic also represented a second chance for her and society.

Black and white art of 2 people wearing hats and glasses laughing
The Collective At the Farm, Graphite on Watercolor paper, Angela Walcott, 2022

This gained knowledge and fresh perspective are what is reflected in the work Walcott creates today and will help others create in her program for the upcoming Ontario Culture Days festival.

Ontario Culture Days runs an annual Creatives in Residence program. Part of the work of the Creatives is presented during public events for our festival of free arts and culture programming across Ontario.

Meet this year’s cohort and register to attend ‘The People’s Garden’ Eco-friendly Art Workshops by Angela Walcott.