Missouri Department of Conservation partners with Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles to create eco art native garden
Art and nature unite to form an education experience for kids and native habitat for pollinators.
Nobody even seemed to notice temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit as they made short work of creating a haven for native pollinators at the entrance of the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles. A diversified group of 10 people gathered at the Foundry June 18 to plant Missouri native plants in the facility’s newly minted native garden. The effort was given an assist from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
This team of assorted planters included four young members of the Foundry Summer Art Camp for kids age 6-14, City of St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer, Jenny Kettler, Head of Education and Programming at the Foundry Art Centre, Foundry Executive Director Sean FitzGibbons, MDC Conservation Educator Becky Robertson, Bill Mees of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative, and Tom Claus, Operations Assistant Manager at The Home Depot.
Leonardo DaVinci’s once said “the artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” Earlier this year Kettler, an artist herself, saw a potential native garden in a space beside the Foundry’s front entrance. At the time it was choked by non-native plants. But what if that space could be transformed into a flourishing plot of eco-friendly natives that would support pollinators?
Kettler reached out to MDC Conservation Educator, Becky Robertson, for help in making that vision a reality.
“It was exciting for them to reach out to us, and it was nice for us to partner with somebody who’s trying to make a difference in conservation and the environment,” Robertson said. She helped Kettler organize a workday in April where MDC staff and members of the Confluence Chapter of the St. Charles County Master Gardeners joined Kettler to clear the ground of the less desirable non-native plants—the first step in making way for the conversion. MDC offered technical assistance to help determine good native replacements for the spot.
Robertson also connected the Foundry Art Centre with other partners and funding to help bring the project to life. Kettler said with Robertson’s assistance and her own efforts, the partnership soon blossomed into an impressive conservation coalition.
St. Louis Compost donated the mulch to prep the garden. Native plants were sourced through donations from Missouri Wildflower Nursery. Grants from the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative and the Missouri Prairie Foundation helped fund the entire project. The Home Depot also stepped forward to supply shovels, concrete for creating garden stones, and wood to put birdhouses on.
Kettler wanted to go one step further though. She envisioned creating an educational and inspirational connection for young people too, so she integrated the native garden project into the Foundry’s kids Summer Art Camp.
“It’s really Important now more than ever for children to learn about the natural world and to develop a close relationship with it because they will become the stewards of the Earth,” Kettler said.
Each weeklong session of the camp focuses on a different part of the natural world. The theme for the week of the planting was “Monet’s Magical Monarchs”. During the five days leading up to the planting event, the young campers created eco-art, including butterflies fashioned from plastic bottles, and watched real painted lady butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. They also made decorative garden stones both to take home and to install in the Foundry Art Centre’s new garden.
The camp culminated in the Friday press event where the campers helped plant 16 native flower species in the new garden space. These included gray, purple and yellow coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, shining blue star, milkweeds, St. John’s wort, and beauty berry. Despite the heat, everyone involved seemed enthusiastic about the effort and the team of 10 was able to complete the task in short order. The kids also released the newly emerged painted lady butterflies into the garden.
From a conservation perspective, Robertson emphasized that native plantings like these not only offer beauty, but they are important for the environment as well. These plants provide a real boost to the wildlife and insect pollinators that rely on them. Collectively, small native oases like this can add up to meaningful habitat in the big picture.
“I hope the kids will leave here with an understanding and appreciation for not only art but the natural world. And that is priceless,” said Kettler.
Perhaps it’s this connection that 19th Century French artist Paul Cézanne realized when he observed, “Art is a harmony parallel with nature.”