Gale Woodhouse’s first visit to The Eden Project did more than allow her to check one of the items off her bucket list.
The Vernon artist came away from the U.K. visitor attraction with a new vision for creating art.
“It changed my art completely from that point,” said Woodhouse, taking a break from working in the clay studio at the Vernon Community Arts Centre. “This is scientists working hand in hand with artists. It’s art delivering a message of science. It’s a way of making that message attractive to all ages.”
Woodhouse will share her journey to Eden as a guest of the Enderby & District Arts Council and Enderby & District Garden Club on April 4, with a slide show and talk at the Enderby Drill Hall.
The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall, comprised of artificial biomes filled with plants collected from around the world. Opened in 2011, the project converted an exhausted clay pit into three biomes: the Tropical Biome, the Mediterranean Biome and an outside area showing a collection of very different gardens created specifically for this micro climate. In this massive undertaking, scientists, engineers, gardeners, artists and an army of volunteers transformed a wasted and abandoned land into an educational oasis of plants, art and eco experiences.
“This was a clay pit that had been abandoned after it ran out of clay and it was really just an eyesore, but scientists and volunteers got together and set about finding a way of healing this scar on the landscape,” said Woodhouse. “It really was dead and abandoned after many years of use, and what they have done is reclaimed Eden — it’s amazing.”
The clay pit in which the project is sited was in use for more than 160 years. In 1981, the pit was used by the BBC as the planet surface of Magrathea in the 1981 TV series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Woodhouse, a potter, sculptor and teacher of art and design, is also an avid gardener whose work is inspired by the natural environment. Formerly artist-in-residence in Cambridge, England, Woodhouse visits gardens around the world on her travels and had been longing to visit The Eden Project.
“They’ve created every season here and they wanted to prove it could be done, to turn a piece of abandoned land into an oasis. Their whole philosophy is around reusing, recycling, do no damage.”
For Woodhouse, her philosophy about the environment goes hand in hand with her art.
“There are some very dire statistics out there about the environment, and Eden is about delivering the message of hope. We recovered this piece of the planet with vision, with resources, with science and art.”
Woodhouse said Eden has rejuvenated the tourism industry in England, hosting everything from school groups to rock concerts.
“As an avid gardener, I love to use art in the garden and that is something they do very well there. It’s about delivering the message of effective development without harming the environment. And the things they do with plants is so creative.”
As a child in Birmingham, Woodhouse remembers days where it was unsafe to go outside due to poor air quality, when the clothesline had to be wiped clean of dirt before the wash could be hung to dry.
“But it has improved and it’s no longer like that,” she said. “I remember a time when the Thames was so polluted, but they cleaned it up and there are now fish in the river. We are slow to catch on but if we as a planet could pool our resources, there is no end to what we can accomplish.
“We are at least thinking about it and talking about it, there is a paradigm shift, but I think like everything, we are not moving fast enough.”
Woodhouse has visited The Eden Project several times, as each ticket is good for one year.
“It’s the gardens that I love. They import and export plants all over the world. I could have spent days there. I did not want to leave. My first day there I arrived at 10 a.m. and didn’t leave until 7:30 at night.”
One of the art pieces, she said, is a series of tiles with children’s hand prints.
“This is our future. We have to provide hope for them that they are going to be able to manage the future. And art is a much softer and gentler deliverer of messages because we work hand in hand with the scientists and we have to cross that bridge and talk to each other. Part of my vision is to share the story of hope.”
Woodhouse will present her talk and slide show of The Eden Project on April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Enderby Drill Hall. Entrance is by donation, and refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Rohats at 250-838-0626.