In October I had the privilege of creating an art installation for one of my favorite places in the world: Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton. The event was GLOW: Nature at Night and I created a display called Tree of Light.
Aullwood holds a special place in my heart. I first visited Aullwood when I was 12, as part of a field trip for Science Olympiad to study birds. After that first visit, I was hooked. I went to Aullwood throughout junior high and high school, first to learn about birds and later to study trees. My mom and I took a spring ornithology class twice, complete with overnight field trips to birding locations throughout the state. My sister and I did the same with a summer tree identification class. During my senior year in high school, I went on a canoeing trip hosted by Aullwood to Michigan. This was the first trip I had ever taken that wasn’t school related and didn’t have my parents, sister or friends joining me. We canoed the gorgeous Au Sable river and went birdwatching. I learned a lot about myself on that trip, mainly that I can be independent and that I love canoeing.
After graduating high school, but before going to Ohio University, I interned at Aullwood for three glorious months. I spent the summer teaching Summer Earth Adventures camp, working on the farm, and getting to know three amazing women who interned with me. Going to college that fall was rough, not only was I leaving home, but I was also leaving my second home, Aullwood.
Fortunately, I was able to continue my relationship with Aullwood throughout college. I volunteered as an animal character for Enchanted Forest and Breakfast with Woodland Santa (to date I’ve been a big brown bat, centipede, scarlet tanager and a southern flying squirrel) and for a few summers, I came back to teach Summer Earth Adventures.
My sister, Brittney, was my camp assistant for several camps so we drove down to Aullwood together, listening to our favorite soundtracks (Chicago and Sweeney Todd). I actually adopted Olivia with Brittney after we finished teaching one afternoon. We stopped at the Miami County Animal Shelter, and after I fell in love with my little tuxedo girl, Brittney helped me dig up enough dollars and change to pay the $40 adoption fee. We didn’t check with my parents before getting a kitten (lucky for us Lou was as adorable as she was, my parents were only upset with us for a while). Brittney was very literally, my partner in crime, that summer and Aullwood was the backdrop of our adventures.
After getting my Mom and sister involved with Aullwood, I convinced my high school sweetheart, Kenneth, to volunteer too. Kenneth was an assistant for Summer Earth Adventures and when I volunteered as an animal character he helped lead visitors on Aullwood’s wooded trails by lamplight.
Aullwood played such a big role in my life growing up, that Kenneth and I could think of no other place to hold our ceremony and reception when we got married after graduating from Ohio University.
On August 14th, 2010, we were married in a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful place. It did rain that day (I’ve heard it’s good luck!), so we were married indoors, but the rain stopped in time for taking pictures outside. It was a wonderful day and not only were we surrounded by family and friends (quite a few who work at Aullwood) but we were also in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by nature.
While Kenneth and I lived in Columbus and the Cincinnati area, we didn’t make it to Aullwood as often as we wanted to. But since we’ve moved back home, we’ve both signed up again as volunteers. This summer we were animal whisperers, working with ducks and goats on the farm to make them more comfortable around people so they can be good ambassadors for their breed.
When Aullwood’s volunteer coordinator asked me if I would be interested in creating an art display for Aullwood’s new fall event, GLOW, I gave her an enthusiastic “yes!” I love volunteering at Aullwood and I especially love the challenge of creating art from recycled materials.
Because Aullwood has had such an impact on my life, and because this past year after moving back home has brought on so many memories, I made that the focus of my installation. Memory, emotion, and dreams portrayed as light became my theme.
My artist statement below describes my vision for my display.
My dad helped me take a large branch from an apple tree in my parent’s yard and turn it into the centerpiece of my display. This apple tree, which has long stopped producing apples, was one of my favorite trees to climb when I was a kid. It has one branch that is perfect for swinging a leg onto to help pull oneself into the tree. The tree is so big that you have to really look for the bare spot we left when we removed a large branch.
We attached the large tree branch to a shipping pallet to give it a sturdy base. While my dad worked on securing the tree to the pallet, I went to town trimming branches and shaping the tree to my liking.
Once the tree was completed, I had a lot of smaller projects to work on at home. I pulled items from my stash of crafting tools to make “memory bottles:” glass bottles filled with beads, thread, and other small mementos that remind me of different periods of my life. In high school, I was very interested in beading and jewelry making so a few jars were filled with beads. When I worked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, I used the 3D printer in the MakerSpace to make a glow-in-the-dark gnome. I’ve loved gnomes for years (my best friend got me one as a graduation gift from high school – yes I am that nerdy ?) and the fact that this little gnome was made from glow-in-the-dark plastic made him perfect for my GLOW display.
Other items that were created for my display included a glass owl recycled from a coffee pot and a broken pair of sunglasses, faux mercury glass jars lit with battery operated LED candles, glass mushrooms, metal spheres, white pumpkins, and lambs ear. The mercury glass jars I made with old glass jars my parents had saved for future canning projects (don’t worry – I didn’t take their whole supply!) which I lightly sprayed with a solution of water and white vinegar before spraying with a silver/mirror effect spray paint. It gave them a nice silvery, mottled look which looked great with the LED candles we borrowed from a family friend.
The glass mushrooms were made with thrifted glass vases and bowls. After I glued them together to make a mushroom shape, I spray painted them with the same silver/mirror paint. I really like how these turned out – they will be going into our garden this spring!
The metal spheres I bought at Expressions of the Home in Troy – one of my favorite eclectic shops downtown. The lambs ear were dug up from the landscaping at our new home. They are often included in plans for night gardens because of their silvery leaves.
In addition to creating and installing my Tree of Light, I also took on the role of Big Brown Bat for some educational character interactions in Aullwood’s bank barn. I performed a skit with another volunteer who portrayed the Luna Moth.
I had a wonderful time getting to know the other volunteers in between our performances, and I even had a few minutes to sneak out and see how my GLOW display looked in the dark. On the second night of GLOW: Nature At Night, my mom dressed up as a Southern Flying Squirrel while she and my dad volunteered with some children’s activities.
I always enjoy time spent at Aullwood and this year’s GLOW event was no exception!