Emily Herr Adds a Welcome Mural
The iconic view of the Conservatory and the Central Garden leading up to it immediately draw in visitors. However, hidden behind the Conservatory, an oft-overlooked treasure awaits. The Kroger Community Kitchen Garden and the Bob Stapleton and Keith Tignor Apiary are two of my favorite places to show visitors. Although the Kitchen Garden has been around for 10 years, and the apiary for two years, we still find visitors who miss these wonderful educational features. This area is not only a highlight in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, but it also serves an important role in the Central Virginia community. The fresh produce generated is donated to Feed More, the local food bank, to support their Meals on Wheels and Kid’s Café programs and to another local food bank, Lambsbasket. So in order to draw some attention to these spots, we did what any other point of interest in the area would do, add a good ol’ Richmond mural.
Senior Horticulturist, Laurel Matthew, led the project and described the need and efforts towards inviting more visitors to the Community Kitchen Garden.
“In the past few years, the Horticulture department has tried to draw guests to this area so they can learn about edible landscaping, home vegetable gardening, patio and container gardening, companion planting, composting, beekeeping, food banks, and FeedMore! A fabulous arbor, set of trellises and the Beecycle mural gives a sense of place to this garden . . . but we still seemed to be missing a “welcome mat” that would encourage guests to continue past the Conservatory and invite them to enter the Kroger Community Kitchen Garden. A painted pathway appeared to be the perfect solution – so the idea of a sidewalk mural was born.”
Another Richmond Mural at the Garden
Matthew worked with Emily Herr, a Richmond-native, and VCU-trained muralist to make the idea a reality. Herr’s murals scatter Richmond and beyond with organically playful illustrations. She has subtle and detailed work at Sugar & Twine in Carytown but also has provided lively and abstract installation work in Ellwood Thompson’s offices. Besides commissions for Richmond murals, Herr’s work is an empowering ongoing mural project called “Girls Girls Girls” where she “is painting murals that claim public visual space for inclusive, realistic, positive representation of womxn.”
The mural for the Community Kitchen Garden is an educational journey of the stages of a tomato’s growth. It is also the newest neighbor to the work of another local Richmond muralist, Matt Lively, whose beecycle mural for the Garden is one of many Richmond murals, but also a great complement for the apiary. Walking along the humungous purple path of the mural, I witnessed a tomato plant start as a seed, sprout among a pollinator bee and marigolds (a companion plant), bear fruit, and ripen right at the entrance to the Community Kitchen Garden. The images of the tomato plant flowering and growing are wonderfully enormous compared to my own feet. At the end of the mural path, the ripened tomato is tenderly held by a set of hands—perfectly representative of how the food in this garden is harvested and shared.
With the help of some volunteers, Herr and the HerrSuite team painted the mural in less than a week. The Garden’s Board of Associates also joined in the painting helping to layout more color.
Thanks to the incredible work of Emily Herr, the walkway is a bold greeting for visitors to the garden. Laurel Matthew, who is the head honcho of the Kitchen Garden says, “Now, staff and volunteers working in the Kroger Community Kitchen Garden enjoy more opportunities to talk to guests while they work – telling the story of its plants, its mission, and the great work being done by local food banks like Feed More. This mural project is a literal interpretation of the Garden’s mission to ‘connect people through plants to improve communities.’ ”
This mural was made possible with a generous grant from Genworth. Genworth is committed to helping families become more financially secure, self-reliant, and prepared for the future. Mollie Brooks, Community Relations Manager at Genworth states, “One of our most important commitments is enriching the quality of life in our communities. We are proud to support Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and its Community Kitchen Garden that provides thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables to FeedMore for their Meals on Wheels program benefitting local seniors who would not otherwise have access to healthy, prepared meals.”