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Brick Hill Plant Lab

Baltimore-based art practice experiment in growing, cultivating, & tending.

Brick Hill Plant Lab | Artist-in-Residence

Melissa Penley Cormier

Tucked up above the light rail and within the audible reach of I-83, there sits a piece of ground well worked and cared for, cradled between a line of evergreens and hedges. The raised beds, filled with carefully curated earth and vegetation changes from season to season and from one day to the next. 


The sun hits the Baltimore brick mill house and holds the heat, creating a pocket of warmth and break from the wind, even on the coldest days.  The fencing, containers, coverings, tools, stepways, and boundaries create a sense of human scale, human labor, human care, and planning. Ever moving, ever changing, growing and decomposing, it becomes a breathing sculpture. 


Meeting ground. We are in desperate need of meeting grounds. The outdoors has become a safer space, we are searching for spaces where we can gather, even in ones and twos, and outside seems to be the only place. Where the air is safe. Safe spaces. Care as art practice. Cultivation as art practice. Documentation of the small artifacts of caring, tending, and stewardship...and what that looks like when it doesn’t work. Documenting the failures, the forgotten, missteps, or the mysteries that we’re helpless to fix. Some of coaxing things to grow is entirely luck, or feels like luck. The weather, ingredients in the soil, animals feeding on tender shoots, timing for placing things in the earth, the sudden cold snap. There are notes taken, both mental and written, there is a feeling of what might work or why it didn’t. There is a need to try new things, to see magic, to make plans, and hope, and try your hardest to keep something beautiful alive. 


To give plants, to receive plants. How do we mark the feelings that center on this giving, on the responsibility of care, how do we digest or experience those feeling when we fall short or something goes wrong? How do we document it fully, not just the beautiful and perfect, but the imperfect, the lacking, the wilted, and rotten, and molded, and barren? How do we attempt to hope again? Should we? 


Planting is a conversation. It creates conversations. Creates want and need for knowledge and experiences, but also creates a drive to find the answers yourself. Close observation. What else is art but close observations, conversations, and hope? Many things, art is still much more, but this is a start. 


There is luck to hope.

- Melissa Penley Cormier on The Brick Hill Plant Lab
28 March 2021

For more of Cormier's artwork and practice, please visit her artist website

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