Mother Nature’s Art Installation

We’re told that we have five primary sense; our sense of Sight, Smell, Sound, Taste, and Touch. But how often do we use these senses to really appreciate the world around us? This is as question Holly Schmidt asked our class on Tuesday, September 25th. Schmidt, an educator turned artist from Vancouver, took our class on an art walk through University of Guelph’s most beautiful gallery, the Arboretum.

Holly Schmidt introduces herself to our class and gives us a rundown of today’s activities.

As we walk, Holly pauses off the side of the road for a moment to give us an autobiography about herself and some of the work that she has pursued. The continues to talk about how she uses an evidence-based method of developing her art; similar to our very own scientific method. Holly mentions how art and science are intertwined, even to the point of both disciplines sharing similar equipment. She wraps up our lecture, and we collectively make our way to the first art installation, the forest.

Holly Schmidt stops our class to give us an autobiography.

Holly leads through a beautiful entrance but gives us one important instruction: be quiet and listen to the sounds of nature. We do just that, attentively and quietly our class walks into a small clearing within the trees.

We stand as a class outside an entrance to the forest. Holly explains to us we must stay silent and appreciate the sounds of the nature.

She introduces our first task, to create a legend of sounds and associate them with a small scripture on our paper, then listen to said sounds inside the forest, and scribe the music with our new notations. And for a moment, all was silent…or was it? The wind blowing, twigs snapping, birds chirping, all these sounds continued to echo through the forest. The exercise was a reminder that no matter if we stop, the world around will continue turning.

Holly tells us to listen for the conversations of the forest.

We packed our belongings and made our way to a beautiful and rich flower garden. As soon as we walked through the gates you can smell the amazing blend of different flowers and trees. The scents were accompanied by the sweet smell of the rain that had come down earlier.

The beautiful flower garden, in the University of Guelph Arboretum.

Holly begins to explain to our group that we have a problem in the English language, we lack a variety of verbs to describe smells, and therefore we consequently used bias words with a positive or negative connotation as replacements. She tells us of an artist from Europe who avoids this by creating her own words and associating them with smells. And so, began our next activity, we were told to walk around the flower garden and do our best to identify smells and describe them with new made-up words. As I walked around and tried my best to take in the aroma of the garden, I realized that you can’t fully appreciate nature from a distance, you need to up close and appreciate with all your senses…(well maybe not taste).

Holly explains to us that we lack sufficient vocabulary for describing smells.

Lastly, Holly had us find something small in the garden, and sketch it into our notes. She gave us one guideline: Focus on the object and pay attention to every groove and detail. And off we went sketching away.

We all learned one thing on this day: Nature is truly a work of art, but it offers us more than just a sight to take it. It is peaceful and therapeutic, and we must make more of an effort to appreciate all it has to offer. And as I write this outside on a picnic bench, I can honestly say, it is well worth it.


By: Armen Merzaian

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