Feb 4th, 2022

Local Artists Design Mailboxes for Love Letters to Nature

If you’ve been to the Garden recently, you may have noticed some mailboxes placed all around. Hand-painted by local Richmond artists, each mailbox is a spot for you to deliver your love letter to nature for the seasonal event “Love, the Garden.”

We were fortunate to work with and get to know these talented artists, and want you to get to know them too!

Unicia Buster is one of several local artists who designed mailboxes for love letters to nature

Unicia R. Buster with her mailbox. This one is located at the base of the Anderson Meadow. Image by Beth Anne Booth.

Unicia R. Buster (she/her), the curator of this mailbox project and one of our resident artists this past summer, had a profound point of view when we asked her why she loves nature. “Nature makes up every part of my being and keeps me alive both physically and mentally. Nature excites my soul and rejuvenates my energy. Hearing waterfall — whether from rain, a shower, or a waterfall — reduces my stress levels. Seeing the activity of insects reminds me to cherish every moment. Smelling the sweet aroma of flowers relaxes and comforts me. Feeling the texture of a blade of grass gives me hope. Learning about all of the species of the world and how they survive inspires me. I cherish nature’s beauty and essence. Nature is the spirit of our planet. All of these reasons and more is why I love nature,” she said. Buster’s close relationship to nature is very present in her artwork. I noticed this specifically in her self-portraits on her website. You can tell nature is a big part of how Buster connects with herself and her art.

Sam Page painting their mailbox

Sam Page is hard at work on their mailbox. Image by Beth Anne Booth.

Sam Page (they/them), another mailbox artist on this project, said, “I think nature is really authentically itself. Like, nature just is. You can’t necessarily cultivate what nature does on its own, and I think we are trying to figure out how nature does that in a lot of ways to do it for ourselves. Nature is a role model. Nature is a comfort in knowing that something can be beautiful….” Agreed! Nature is great at reminding us that our differences are what make us beautiful. Every plant and flower is so stunning and distinctive by just being itself. Page embraces themself and their own unique identity with their brand “High and Mighty Co.” As they put it on their website “Once a man called me ‘High and Mighty.’ I guess it stuck.” I love how Page took how they had been described one time to build a brand that better embodies who they are.

Local artist Carrie Cheatham smiling with her nearly complete mailbox

Carrie Cheatham smiling with her mailbox. Image by Beth Anne Booth.

Carrie Cheatham (she/her) said, “Seeing the beauty in nature as it changes from season to season is what I love most. Watching as plants go dormant in the colder months and then erupt into new growth as things warm up really brings a smile to my face. Just like plants, we each have seasons, and I love to experience those moments of slowness as well as growth!” So well said! Nature is like a friend that grows and changes in cycles along with us. Cheatham has hand-painted greeting cards for any season and other artwork on her website. She creates and sells these beautiful cards as a platform to advocate for our refugee and migrant neighbors, and she donates a portion of the profits to designated funds for this issue.

Local artist David Marion smiling with his mailbox

We LOVE David Marion’s Mailbox! Image by Unicia Buster.

David Marion (he/him) said, “What is there not to love about nature? For one, I love how it makes you feel. Our connection to it. What it does to you from a mental standpoint. In my studies of nature and how it affects people in spaces, I know how it can affect your anxiety is real. Bring your anxiety levels down and bring you to more peace. To me nature is tranquility. Nature is peace. And, it puts you in a state of mind of positivity. That’s what I love about nature.” Marion is spot-on with the benefits to our mental well-being that nature brings: spending time outside is so restorative to us. Marion’s artwork can be found on his website, and each piece holds a different and meaningful story pertaining to the struggle of being black in America and the positive themes of black life and family.

Local artist Raven Smith smiling with her mailbox

Raven Smith with her mailbox. It is located outside the Healing Garden. Image by Unicia Buster.

Raven Smith (she/her) said, “I love nature because it’s a source of inspiration and stability. Nature is this perfect continuation of growth, life, and death. Regardless of whatever human impact may have on her (nature), she will always find a way to survive. Nature is the only place I can be where I feel both humbled and proud. Like I belong here. It’s a powerful place, one that I feel so grateful for.” I love Smith’s idea of nature as a safe space. Nature is a constant we can always rely on and is somehow also a never-ending stream of new ideas and encouragements. Smith so clearly takes inspiration from the seasons in her artwork on her website. She even has a series of products called “What’s in Season” devoted to helping us shop for in-season produce.

Local artists, including Jowarnise Caston, painted mailboxes at Lewis Ginter

Jowarnise Caston added some finishing touches to her mailbox.

Jowarnise Caston (she/her) said, “Nature is humbling. I love how nature stimulates my senses with a fresh, beautiful range of aromas, colors, sounds, and textures that help me become mindful and appreciative of the present moment.” Caston’s got the right idea! Nature urges us to practice mindfulness so effortlessly. It takes away our distractions to help us live more presently. Caston’s artwork on her Instagram is figurative and commonly features beautiful, strong black women along with colorful patterns and landscapes. Her artwork is calming but powerful, and you can tell she is inspired by nature.

We hope you are as big of fans of our mailbox artists as we are. Be sure to check out their websites and see if you can spot a mailbox around the Garden on your next visit!

About Lydia Pearl

Lydia is a public relations intern at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Mass Communications. She is excited to be practicing her writing skills while learning more about plants and getting involved in the Richmond community.

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