Inside The Green Palette

Connecting Art and Gardening to Tell Stories and Building Community

In February 2021 we invited members of the Collinwood community and the surrounding areas to reconsider public green spaces as sites of creative expression, and gardening as a means of storytelling and engagement with those around us. Nine participants –Storytellers, as we call them– accepted the challenge and brought with them varying levels of gardening and artistic experience. We enlisted local artists and Community Garden Mentors to assist in bringing the stories to life, but the stories the gardeners tell are their own. As a group the stories spin a collective tale of connection, collaboration, and growth, as well as remembrance for those no longer here and respect for the world presently around us. 

It’s been a very exciting July here at Waterloo Arts as we watched seventeen of the seventy-one planter beds along Waterloo Road transform into Storybeds under the visions of these nine Storytellers. In addition to the creative expressions within the beds, we asked each Storyteller to share their stories in words. Below are those stories. We hope you take the time to come to Waterloo Road and engage with the Storybeds along this main thoroughfare in the Collinwood arts district.

Teri Dew (11 & 17)
Artist Lead: Shani Richards

Teri’s Storybed in front of Article Gallery.

I moved to North Collinwood 16 years ago after 38 years in Cleveland Heights. I was drawn to the lake, and the communal lakefront parks in this area. I was soon drawn to Waterloo Arts because of my passion for the arts, which I believe both support and enhance a community. In 2017 I became the garden finder for GardenWalk Cleveland, which brought many visitors to our community for the first time. After a year off because of COVID, I agreed to recruit local gardeners again this July. The Green Palette project was a perfect fit, so I decided to “adopt” a plot (or 2). The day I started my effort, I was surprised to engage in gardening talk with the women leaving their workout at Nu Life, and to meet Darryl, who lives in a row house next door. He expressed his gratitude for “all the efforts to make the neighborhood better.” The evening before was Walk All Over Waterloo and the biggest crowd ever came out of their COVID quarantines to celebrate the return to “normal,” and the amazing renaissance of the “gold building,” now the Blue Windmill. The excitement was palpable, and may it continue to grow.

Roots, by Joanie Deveney (22, 23, & 24)
Artist Lead: Omid Tavakoli

Joanie looks over an inspiration for her Celtic knot Storybed design.

My name is Joanie Deveney, a Collinwood resident for over 30 years. I am 2nd generation Irish off the boat on my mom’s side of the family. Connell and Mary Byrne were my grandparents from Kilcar, West Donegal Ireland and they immigrated to Northeastern Ohio where they eventual met again and married. I have incorporated into the center bed of the three beds I took on, a traditional friendship Celtic knot. I am a professional artist with my main discipline in design and more specifically stained-glass design and fabrication. I also have been gardening professionally for over 17 years. I thought the opportunity to design on Waterloo Road a gardening bed to honor my Irish roots would be a wonderful and satisfying challenge.

Team Pollinator: Meredith Hahn-Petrovic & Vicki Ratliff (25 & 58)
Artist Lead: Omid Tavakoli

Vicki and Meredith put the finishing touches on one of their two Storybeds.

Team Pollinator came into being when Omid, Meredith, and Vicki met for the first work session of The Green Palette.  Vicki shared some ideas about using sculptural elements in a garden to help tell a story and Meredith presented ideas about a sunburst themed garden.  The team agreed to work two plots and pursue both ideas.  As the team worked to clear the first plot, they shared ideas and got to know each other. When Meredith asked about sculptural elements, Vicki brought out a photo of a ceramic pig looking for a new home.  Meredith accepted the pig as one of the first sculptural elements in the newly created garden.  She added a wonderful large vase and Farmer Pig adopted 2 smaller pigs to help educate the public about the need for pollinators on the farm. For the sunburst garden, Meredith shared images of gardens designed in sunburst patterns at the first work session, and Omid came up with the final design while watching a sporting event, when he saw a sunburst pattern in a team logo.  Meredith chose plants that would meet the criteria for the garden to be considered a pollinator garden, with a focus on pollinators native to the North Coast.  Vicki selected stones and lumber for the rays of the sunburst.  Omid added suggestions for how to make the garden flourish, along with his unending enthusiasm, and plenty of time and effort.  We hope everyone enjoys our colorful and cheerful salute to pollinators.

Suhaylah Hamzah  (26 & 27)
Artist Lead: Shani Richards

Suhaylah and son Vega survey their garden plots..

Our planet is often referred to as Mother Earth, because earth is considered the source of all living beings and is personified as “mother” because of its life-giving abilities and nurturing aspects of nature. Mother Earth is a goddess that should be honored and protected at all times, even when she cannot produce new life. My concept is based around honoring the mothers who have prematurely lost their babies due to fertility issues or being taken away by violence. My vision is to plant a seed for the seeds we’ve lost. Strategically planting flowers that attract life, designed in a way to represent the womb of a woman, and symbolize the journey through motherhood. Oftentimes, mothers who lose their babies to street violence/police brutality or cannot carry their children to full term are left postpartum or without the proper mental care afterwards. Gardening or growing a new life through the Earth can help remedy the grief and provide mothers a new sense of purpose. I want this garden space to be a safe space for these women, even a shrine of sorts, to pay homage to the loved ones that are no longer with us. 

Andrew Minor w/ BRICK Ceramic + Design Studio (40)
Artist Lead: Omid Tavakoli

Andrew’s Storybed with ceramic sculptural fencing from Brick.

Shari Wolf  (50)

I have always enjoyed gardening.  For about ten years now I have collected garden tchotchkes that can be displayed and incorporated with potted plants.  I enjoy antiquing and looking for things that will enhance a garden. This project seemed to be a good fit for what I like to do and to support the area and Waterloo Arts.

John Troxell (51)
Artist Lead: Shani Richards

Shani assists as John mulches his Storybed.

John is a local artist and avid gardener. His garden functions to bring him into a community he loves and to reflect the day and night life along Waterloo, particularly as related to The Beachland Ballroom. Check out our interview with John about his Storybed:

Northeast Ohio Socialist Rifle Association (67, 68, 69, 70, & 71)

The SRA garden behind Nagy’s Monument.

Our group advocates for firearms education for marginalized communities in a safe, all inclusive, non-toxic environment. Our chapter’s primary focus is on mutual aid. We work with multiple orgs across NEOH including Food Not Bombs, Serve the People, and Denison UCC. 

We started focusing a lot on growing food and having fresh food available to local communities, because if people aren’t being fed, then the rest of the work doesn’t really matter. We’re working on getting some community gardens started next year (red tape and bureaucracy for miles) so we can teach people about gardening and specifically how to maximize fresh fruits and vegetables in small spaces. 

We were very fortunate this year that while scout the garden beds on Waterloo, a local business (Nagy’s Monument) approached us about an unused garden plot they had available that they would let us use as a small community garden. It took a lot of people and hard work, but we got it cleared out and planted (we’ve named it the Green Abyss) and in the next few weeks we’ll be ready to start giving out fresh produce to the local community. That’s the intention of our garden boxes as well.

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