Winnipeg Arts Council

living living room

Orioles Community Centre, living living room by Erica Swendrowski — Photo by Robert Tinker

living living room combines earth, grass, and straw with household objects, presenting the public with furniture pieces in unfamiliar settings, created from unusual materials. A couch created from sod, a rocking chair with a grass cushion…these are just two items in the magical spaces Swendrowski has created with the help of the local communities.

Erica Swendrowski was selected in June 2010 as the Artist-in-Residence in Community Gardens. This unique residency came about as a result of conversations between the Winnipeg Arts Council and the City’s Public Works Department based on a desire to integrate artists into these spaces that focus on both community and food production. Interplay between artists and gardens has a long tradition and it became clear that this deep interest continues. One of our main goals was to ensure the garden was not just the backdrop for the artwork, but an integral part of the artwork itself.

As the artist wrote in her proposal: “For generations community gardens have provided city dwellers with opportunities to grow healthy food close to home.  With an increased awareness of where food comes from and how it is grown, as well as an increased demand for self sufficiency, these types of gardens have been sprouting up in increasing numbers offering community members a sustainable future, and a healthier environment.  Winnipeg is currently home to more than 50 community gardens.

Dotting the city’s fabric in all shapes and sizes, community gardens create a common ground for community members from all walks of life to come together and meet one another, exchange knowledge and tell stories of the community that was, is and could be while reaping the fruits of their labour. Community gardens create unique collective places within the public sphere that contribute to the cultivation of a healthy, sustainable physical and social environment that ultimately strengthens communities within which they are located.

Getting to know the dynamics, philosophies and traditions of several gardens, community involvement and participation prevailed as a main topic of discussion and revealed itself to be one of the main driving forces behind these gardens. Thus, in response to the Community Gardens Artist-In-Residence project, I propose to focus on the community aspect of community gardening by creating furniture out of organic and inorganic material for gardeners and community members alike to feel welcome to sit down, and relax in the comfort of their community, outdoors, surrounded by nature. 

These ‘living rooms’ will celebrate, reflect and accentuate the existing social dynamics of community gardening while creating unique and magical places for new opportunities and experiences to arise within their growing communities.” Erica Swendrowski

living living room was celebrated with a bus tour of the various sites, concluding with a garden party that took place, appropriately, on the last day of summer, September 22, 2011.

Erica Swendrowski

Winnipeg artist and landscape designer, Erica Swendrowski, combines her formal training in Landscape Architecture from the University of Manitoba and her passion for place-making with sculpture to create amusing, out-of-the-ordinary experiences within the public realm. Interested in altering human activity and the perception of place, Swendrowski responds to existing spaces with familiar, slightly altered objects from everyday life. The objects, placed in surprising and seemingly out-of-context spaces, reintroduce a familiarity of place through memory and personal associations. living living room, created through her residency in Winnipeg’s Community Gardens is Erica’s third public art installation in Winnipeg following Jelly Bean Park (2006) and Hearts on Portage (2007) She will be installing her 4th public art project on Portage Avenue in spring of 2012, a collaboration between the Winnipeg Arts Council and the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

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