As the leaves turned burnt orange and bright yellow and the days grew shorter, residents of Guelph’ neighbourhood called The Ward put their gardens to sleep for the winter with a soft blanket of free mulch. This was The Mulch Project, created by the University of Guelph Specialized Studio class and FASTWÜRMS at Tytler Public School. On Saturday, November 9, 2013 from noon until dusk residents were invited to stop by for a warm cup of apple cider, a home-baked treat, and free mulch for their gardens.
Seventeen artists in their final year of the University of Guelph Studio Art Program screen-printed and customized 200 burlap bags, which they filled by hand to distribute 6 cubic yards of cedar mulch. The ready-and-waiting burlap bags snapped in the wind on clotheslines strung across the school parking lot. Powered by hot apple cider and the persistent dance beat undertone from the FASTWURMS’ van, the students enthusiastically shovelled and scooped the mulch into each bag. Steadily, they lined the fences of the parking lot: one was hand-stitched with lace, another painted with a whale and a cupcake, yet another stencilled “This is Art/No it isn’t/ Yes it is,” and even one emblazoned with a “Biltmore Mad Hatters” hockey insignia. Gardeners of the Ward, brought out by the notice in the Tribune, the notice on the Two Rivers Facebook group, or the flyers distributed into local mailboxes, came out steadily throughout the day to pick up mulch for their gardens. Some came in cars, others brought red wagons, which carried both the mulch bags and their children back to their homes. Some came back again for more.
A rhizome is a horizontal underground root system that continuously grows outwards. It’s also a philosophical concept that expands on the idea of the growing root system to talk about new connections and multiple entry points without a hierarchy within a community. Dedicated to nourishing the gardens of the Ward, The Mulch Project was rhizome love, art, and community exchange: feeding roots, promoting growth, and celebrating the dedicated plant people of the Ward.
This project deftly connected to the cultural energies going on in this neighbourhood, with a DIY aesthetic that resonated with the grassroots ethics inherent in home-grown gardening. It spoke to both ecological resilience and community awareness: two things intrinsic to Musagetes’ work.
The Mulch Project Artists were: Sean Abraham, Laurel Barr, Rachel Crawford, Tor Day, Dana Deming-Watson, FASTWÜRMS, Mariah Hamilton, Sarah Hughes, Rachel Kopacki, Samuel De Lange, Rachel Loree, Jacquelyn Parent, River Roy, Jessie Sawyers, Savannah Snook, Loretta Steeper, Susannah Vander Zaag, Daniel Willison.
Special thanks to the Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group for all of their help and for sharing their space with us, and to the Specialized Studio Program, SOFAM, University of Guelph.