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Press Release

Eric Sloss

For immediate release:
August 31, 2005

Carnegie Mellon STUDIO's Persephone Project Founder Creating a Magic Penny Garden in Chester County, Pa.

PITTSBURGH—Stephanie Flom, an artist and founder of the Persephone Project at Carnegie Mellon University's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, will be collaborating with members from Chester Springs and the City of Coatesville to create a living work of public art, a Magic Penny Garden on Chester Springs Studio's main campus. The arts organization will be celebrating Magic Penny Garden Day at Chester Springs Studio from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 10, 2005. Invitees are asked to bring a special plant from a garden to share with Flom's Magic Penny Garden.

The garden dedication ceremony will be the week of April 24, 2006, at the Chester Springs Studio. For additional information on the residency or the ceremony, call 610-827-7277.

A Magic Penny Garden uses plants contributed from people's gardens. Anyone from a neighborhood is invited to contribute a plant that has personal meaning, and then the artist groups the plants in a meaningful way.

The Magic Penny Garden at Chester Springs Studio is intended to foster community awareness between the village of Chester Springs and the town of Coatesville. Specifically, the project goal is to build a deeper relationship between the students, faculty and programs at the main campus (Chester Springs Studio) and at the Arts Partners Studio (APS) in Coatesville.

"My initial goal was to 'build the community' at Chester Springs Studio and the Arts Partners Studio with this project. Through the gardener interviews I've been conducting, I learned that community already exists. Here is a community of explorers who want to experience painting or clay in a communal setting. Bringing together the gardeners here somehow seems to deepen this community," Flom said.

"I think when we come as students we often leave our other interests at home; we come open and eager to learn new things. We come to receive. As gardeners we bring our depth of experience in something that we know and love so intimately. We bring our deep knowledge of the subject and have something to teach, something to give," she said.

Flom will conduct this project during a six-week residency in Chester County. She has organized a group of project advisors who will serve as liaisons between her and the local neighborhoods. Flom is also teaching a four-week class at Chester Springs Studio in which the students will explore gardening as an artistic practice and apply basic concepts in the visual arts to garden design. Flom, her students, project advisors and community volunteers are working together to prepare the site and install the Magic Penny Garden.

Flom will also hold a one-day Gardeners Exchange next April, which will bring backyard gardeners in Coatesville together with gardeners from Chester Springs. The group traveled to see each other's gardens and jumpstarted the community interaction that this project is based on. Besides inviting the residents of Coatesville to help with the garden and participating in the Gardeners Exchange, Flom is visiting drawing and painting classes at the Art Partners Studio to show students in Coatesville how gardeners use visual elements like line and shape.

By showing people the link between gardening and art making, by showing people that their home gardens are creative expressions, Flom is reaching out to gardeners who never thought of themselves as artists. "When people begin to see their work as having artistic value, they stand taller," Flom said.

The Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation is providing funding for Flom's residency and the Magic Penny Garden in Chester Springs. Community members will be contributing most of the plants and seedlings that will be used to create the garden. Chester Springs Studio will also be pursuing donations of gardening supplies from local hardware stores and any additional plants from local nurseries.

The Persephone Project undertakes several activities, each involving some aspect of gardening as fine art. After working with the Persephone Project, gardeners and non-gardeners have reported that they are more appreciative of the gardeners in their neighborhoods and their physical surroundings.

Carnegie Mellon's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry was founded in 1989 and is an interdisciplinary research facility within the College of Fine Arts. The College of Fine Arts is a community of nationally and internationally recognized artists and professionals organized into five schools: Architecture, Art, Design, Drama and Music; and their associated centers and programs.

For more information about the Magic Penny Garden project or the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, please contact Eric Sloss at 412-268-5765 or


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