June 17, 2021

Artist and Community Volunteers Turn Prison Cell into Garden at Flo Gris Museum; Solitary Garden Artist to Give Talk Sunday

OLD LYME — As part of the Florence Griswold Museum’s current exhibition, Social & Solitary: Reflections on Art, Isolation, and Renewal, the Museum is collaborating with the New Orleans-based artist jackie sumell to install one of her “Solitary Garden” beds on the Museum’s grounds.

A group of volunteers from the community will work with the artist to create the fixtures and plant garden

Thursday, June 10, from 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, June 11, from 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday, June 12, from 10 am to 1 pm

If you wish to volunteer for this project, visit https://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/solitarygarden/

The Solitary Garden project comes to life through correspondence between a volunteer and a currently incarcerated “gardener.” Their letters articulate to the Museum what kinds of flowers or plants are grown in the garden bed. Each Solitary Garden is a gesture of hope connecting an isolated person to the outside world through the restorative act of nurturing plants.

The size and layout of sumell’s 6’ x 9’ plots replicate prison cells, with “fixtures” made from biodegradable materials that will disappear over time as the plants and flowers mature.

The gardener is currently incarcerated at the York Correctional Institution, a facility for women in Niantic. By pending agreement with the prison and the gardener, we will soon be able to share the gardener’s initials.

Photo of jackie sumell by Maiwenn Raoult.

Artist jackie sumell works with gardeners incarcerated around the country and encouraged the curator to connect with someone in prison locally.

The Hartford artist Judy Dworin of the movement-based, multi-arts Judy Dworin Performance Project works with women incarcerated at York and helped identify the gardener based on her past involvement in both gardening and writing programs at the prison.

Sumell will be at the Museum on Sunday, June 13 at 2 p.m. for a free talk on the grounds. She will speak about her Solitary Gardens and The Prisoner’s Apothecary, a traveling project that grows plant medicine in collaboration with incarcerated individuals and distributes it to affected communities nationally.

The Solitary Gardens project cultivates conversations around alternatives to incarceration by catalyzing compassion. This project directly and metaphorically asks us to imagine a landscape without prisons.

Editor’s Note: The artist’s name is intentionally lowercase. The Florence Griswold Museum is located at 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT.

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