Gardening At The Crossroads Of Beauty And Survival

WonderLab's Science of Art series continues with a garden designer who proposes that a playful, creative approach might be the only way to save the world.

  • Jami plants

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Garden designer Jami Scholl shows a young community member how to plant a seedling into the living sculpture Scholl has created in the WonderGarden.

  • Girls with Botanicals

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Young WonderLab visitors learn how to extract pigment from flowers to create lasting images.

  • soil dragon

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Garden designer Jami Scholl has carved a bearded dragon out of soil as the foundation for the WonderGarden's living sculpture.

  • WonderGarden

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    The WonderGarden is nestled between the WonderLab and the B-line trail.

  • Boy and dragon

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    A WonderLab staffer helps a young visitor contribute to the living sculpture in the museum's WonderGarden.

  • Bearded Dragon

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    A bearded dragon that lives in the museum is not only the sculptor's muse, but will be the beneficiary of the greens harvested from the living bearded dragon sculpture in the WonderGarden.

  • Tim Carter-East and participant

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Botanical artist Timothy Carter-East shows a child how to transfer the pigment from a blossom to the page, using a hammer.

  • timothy, girl, petunias

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Artist Timothy Carter-East helps a young WonderLab visitor choose blossoms to transfer to the page.

  • Jami, trowel

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Garden Designer Jami Scholl surveys the bearded dragon she's carved out of the soil bed in the WonderGarden, and prepares for community members to plant seedlings in the living sculpture.

  • Blue pulp

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    During April's First Friday program, children make plantable Earth-shaped paper discs from blue and and green pulp, in which they embed lettuce seeds.

  • WonderLab

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    Bloomington's WonderLab is located on West Fourth Street, just off the B-Line Trail.

  • WonderLab

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    Photo: Yael Ksander

    WonderLab hosts the Science of Art series throughout 2012, showcasing the intersection of art and science with special programming the first Friday of each month, from 5 to 8:30, for reduced admission.

Event Information

WonderLab's First Friday Science Of Art Series

WonderLab offers explores connections between art and science the first Friday of every month of 2012. The May program features Windfall Dancers and zoetropes.


WonderLab Museum 308 W. 4th St. Bloomington IN 47404

First Fridays of each month, 5-8:30 pm; otherwise,Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm Sunday: 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

non-members: $3.50 during extended evening hours; otherwise $7.00

WonderLab Museum of Science Health and Technology

Garden Designer Jami Scholl has high hopes for a mound of earth that she’s been sculpting in in the WonderGarden.

“It’s more than just a bearded dragon in the ground!” she insists, with a laugh.

At WonderLab’s First Friday program for April, Scholl has invited community members to plant kale, collards, and mustard seedlings into the creature’s back. As the plants grow, they will not only approximate the look of the lizard’s skin, but double as sustenance for a real bearded dragon that lives at the museum.

When she was proposing the project, that tie-in was critical for Scholl, who seeks creative, aesthetic solutions to strengthen food security.

A Marriage Of Science And Art

With one foot in the world of design and the other in agriculture, Scholl was brought in as one of two artists for April’s Science of Art program, “Nature’s Palette.” It’s the fifth year that Bloomington’s WonderLab has presented the Science of Art series, but this year the museum of science health and technology is changing things up a bit. Instead of dedicating a month to programming that inhabits the intersection between art and science, WonderLab is extending the series throughout the entire year.

Each first Friday of the month, the museum presents an evening of demonstrations and hands-on activities organized around a central theme. Last month’s program revealed how quilters rely on mathematics, chemistry and engineering; future Friday night programs will showcase the scientific underpinnings of limestone carving, photography, and screen printing.

Farming On A City Block

WonderLab is one of several venues throughout Bloomington’s Entertainment and Arts district showcasing Scholl’s yearlong project “Garden the City 2012: Painting With Edibles”. These highly visible urban garden plots are intended to do more than decorate the city; they’ll provide object lessons in how to cultivate edible and medicinal plants in challenging and unexpected situations–

“I want to create an opportunity for people who aren’t usually interested in food security,” Scholl explains, “because we all eat.”

I want to create an opportunity for people who aren’t usually interested in food security,” Scholl explains, “because we all eat.

In addition to such challenges as growing food in places with contaminated soil, a major obstacle would-be urban gardeners face is a legal one. As a member of the Bloomington Food Policy Council involved with the Urban Agriculture Amendment, Scholl has encountered myriad covenants restricting agricultural activity within certain zones and subdivisions. The laws are a relic of the post-World War 2 era, Scholl explains, when the new American culture of material abundance was discomfited by any association with the gritty days of Victory Gardens.

As a private consultant to clients trying to grow their own food in the legal wake of that era, Scholl brings her art training to bear.

“To me it’s just a design issue,” Scholl explains. “I can help them work around those legalities and still create something really beautiful in the front yard that’s not a row crop.”

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Inside the museum, another artist who incorporates the science of plants into his work is demonstrating his technique for a crowd of attentive children, bearing mallets. They’re especially anxious to assist artist Timothy Carter-East in pounding the pigment out of pansy and morning glory blossoms. This is Carter-East’s rudimentary technique for his botanical collages; he uses more advanced technology to turn the collages into larger giclée prints.

Elsewhere in the museum, staff members and volunteers are helping children make paper into which lettuce seeds are incorporated. Made from blue and green pulp and shaped into discs, the resulting paper will resemble the planet Earth, and can be planted in a pot or the garden to grow lettuce.

The children who’ve enjoyed today’s make-and-take activity at WonderLab may not be aware of it, but they’ve entered into the very nexus of art, science, and philosophy. “We must all tend our garden,” suggested Voltaire’s optimist Candide.

Which sounds a lot like Scholl’s conclusion.  “Gardens,” she asserts, “can save the world!”

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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