Collaborators: Bethany Kunselman, Gardner. Muralist.
Finn Graves, Urban Garden Designer, Muralist, Installation Artist.
“Peering Through the Raspberries” is an evolving urban art and garden backyard installation at our home. We have been working on the evolution of this project throughout the entire six years we’ve lived at our house. It’s been an ongoing collaboration between art and nature, an evolving inspiration space, a community gathering place and a sanctuary for Bethany Kunselman and myself.
We have gathered materials from free-boxes and upcycled most of the furniture and installations throughout the attached video. We have hosted numerous community gatherings, pop up art shows and workshops within the space. We have reclaimed the land from the intense amount of trash and debris which used to cover our back yard and in which previous owners buried trash throughout. It has been an evolving and seasonally revolving project which adapts to our personal needs of having an indoor/outdoor style of living at home.
Our first step and goal in the project was land reclamation for everyday personal use. We spent a significant amount of time in the first two years of the project unearthing debris, planning the space, testing what could and could not grow in our soil. We added needed elements to the soil such as steer manure, compost, mushroom compost, and sand, in order to create an environment where we could grow food, herbs and fruits.
Our second goal for this project was to create a space which induced welcoming our community into our home. For the first four years we invited a variety of community members into our home, our space, our environment and we build an interesting, conglomerate network of writers, musicians, artists and healers. Each contributed a variety of collaborations to “Peering Through the Raspberries”. Some helped with harvest. Some free-boxed fresh plants, or watered the garden. Other’s added to the murals, the sculptures and the raised beds with hidden objects. Our yard has become an open studio space for members of our community to experiment, play and explore. The most common comment we receive from others coming into our space after years of being there, or with their first introduction is, “Wow. This feels like home. I feel comfortable here.” Which was our main project goal, after reclaiming the land. I feel we have succeeded.
Our last project goal was to grow ideas, collaborations and concepts of resourceful, creative energy. It’s most often a studio space where we host gatherings, workshops or studio activities. The leftover grass has paint on it. The concrete patio where my drafting table is set up has collected years worth of spray-paint stenciling. There are art dolls, figures, skeletons and toys hidden throughout the garden. The murals change and evolve. We have successfully harnessed the influx of creative energy in our project. We have spit-balled hundreds of ideas. We have collaborated and hosted our community. Our project has served all of its goals.
“Peering Through the Raspberries” has made use of our creative resourceful energy. It has flowed and evolved through our seasons of change and transformation. It has gotten more interesting, unique, functional and overgrown with nature with each passing year. We have held hundreds of community gatherings in our space. Everyday we are out there, working on this project in little ways. Adapting and addressing our own backyard sanctuary. Our own urban art garden has continuously evolved. We have gotten the chance to spend six years experimenting wholeheartedly with small spaces and land reclamation from human trash. We have collected knowledge, notes and experience on what we want to do and change about our project. We have gotten the chance to collaborate extensively as a team.
One surprising thing, which grew out of this project, has been that both houses on either side of us actually sold faster in our neighborhood. Our previous neighbors are our friends and Portland priced them out. We were certain our new neighbors wouldn’t appreciate our conglomerate, messy, organic experiment combining art spaces and plants, but we were wrong.
We have two new sets of neighbors and part of the reason they bought their houses, was because our previous neighbors raved about how interesting it was to live next to us and how kind we are as neighbors. Also, our neighbors are beginning to grow gardens as well. And they’re similar in style to what we’ve created. So our personal experiment is spreading and seems to be bringing other people joy. I don’t think we could ask for more.