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Archives for January 2, 2016

Jeff Lowenfels: For a new year, a new yard

I dislike New Year’s resolutions, and even though the Garden Writers Manual says I am supposed to use them as the theme for the last column of the year, I usually end a long year of advice columns with a bit of opinion. This year, I am going to start the year with one. 

I have been thinking about the origins of our American Yard. Uh oh. Too much winter darkness for Jeff, huh? I know, but bear with me as I try to explain and connect the dots. My premise is that we have been going about this yardening thing all wrong. We have been banging our heads against the soil trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Why do our yards look like they do? Why do we have lawns?  I know the answer in historical terms: The meadow moat around the castle that let guarding soldiers see the enemy approaching morphed into huge expanses of castle lawn when enemies no longer threatened and the lawn mower was invented.  

So why do those of us who now no longer live in castles have lawns? Not only do they require work, we now know they reduce nature’s diversity, a diversity (like others) that is beneficial. 

The answer has nothing to do with horticulture, gardening or even aesthetics. It’s all economics. In the beginning, you cut the trees around the homestead to build the cabin. The cleared land around it was useful to maintain animals (or prove out the homestead). Today, builders know houses are easier to build (translate: cheaper) if they can clear-cut an area and in the end toss some grass seed down on whatever is left so that the potential buyers won’t track mud all over the house and won’t see how the crappy is the soil that was left. 

That is it. That is why you have a lawn. 

Don’t believe me? Consider what the landscape architects of rich and famous frequently do when they build a new home and money isn’t a concern.

They often leave native trees, boulders and grasses, complete with mosses and lichens galore. They work with builders to ensure a yard and home fit the landscape like a veritable Fallingwater, instead of scraping off all the native plants, removing all the natural contours and destroying natural accoutrements and then sprinkling lawn seed and planting a few trees and shrubs. 

Ah, but you are like the rest of us and you come to a place, say Anchorage or Fairbanks or Wasilla (though it could be Scarsdale, New York or Dayton, Ohio, or Portland, Oregon, or anywhere in the United States) and you buy a house. Invariably, the builder left a lawn (even in a place like Alaska where you expect wilderness if not attention to it). And you keep it. That is why you have a lawn.

I know. We’ve all been brainwashed by Scotts and our local box and hardware stores and garden centers that everyone has a lawn and not only that, it needs to be cared for each spring, so you get to think you live in a castle. Add in the laziness of your local garden columnist (who gleefully gets to bank a whole month’s worth of columns in one sitting writing about lawn care), a dose of the American Dream — to own a house with a neat yard bounded by a white picket fence — and there you have it. 

Finally, let’s not forget to admit our own laziness in taking the cow pie dumped on us (directly or indirectly) by a builder with no care but the almighty dollar and putting a smiley face on it. We justify our lawns by thinking our kids need the whole yard to be grass so they can safely play or that such a cleared expanse keeps the mosquito populations down. And, of course, no one wants to have to spend a bit of money and effort to radically shrink or eliminate a lawn.

As I lecture around the country on my books, I hear other gardening lectures. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, too, and it is clear that it is past time to get rid of our outdated concept of lawn. In fact, it is long overdue. Our vision of “lawn” is not sustainable and — once protection was out of the picture — never was. Only the original builder benefits. The rest of us — mowing with extremely inefficient gas engines, applying polluting fertilizers, using poisonous herbicides and deadly pesticides — suffer the consequences. 

This year, let’s start to reduce the size of our lawns to what we need. Children don’t need the whole yard to be lined with Kentucky bluegrass to play. Put in a grass strip to let them kick balls and play badminton, sure, but they don’t need the whole yard.

Why not a path out to a grass- and rock-based barbecue-picnic area surrounded by natural landscaping? Leave the rest of the yard be. You can watch the birds, damselflies and butterflies as you cook. 

It is time for the New American Yard. Why not surround your gardens with natives? This will surely reduce all manner of problems. 

The practice may be so effective as to even eliminate the need for the weekly garden columnist. 

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Happy new year: Relax, enjoy having nothing horticultural to do. We have a great year ahead of us with lots of stuff to do, but this weekend, just enjoy.

Christmas tree recycling: You know the routine. Naked trees only can be dropped off at any Carrs-Safeway in Palmer or Anchorage until Jan. 15. Do not let them go to the landfill. Troop 268 will pick up trees for a small fee if you call 868-8899 or contact

New this year — Christmas light recycling: Take yours to the Anchorage Recycling Center off Dowling Road or Total Reclaim in the Huffman Business Center.

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A year’s worth of garden tips from local New Orleans growers

With 12 months’ worth of garden columns behind me in 2015, I tucked away a number of useful hints from local experts — people who grow favorites right here in our climate. Here are a few of the best tips I heard. Happy gardening in the new year!

SAVE THAT AMARYLLIS: From Allen Owings of the LSU AgCenter: Amaryllis received as holiday gifts don’t have to go into the trash with the gift wrapping. “Early spring is the time to take the bulb out of its pot and plant it in a garden bed with its apex just above ground level.”

WAIT TO PRUNE: From Lee Rouse, also of the LSU AgCenter, who teaches classes at the New Orleans Botanical Garden: “Spring flowering shrubs like azaleas and gardenias shouldn’t be pruned (in the winter because) you’ll be cutting off the buds. You need to wait until after they have bloomed.”

WHEN TO CUT: From Don Hanson, an expert in rooting roses from cuttings: “The best time to take cuttings here is November through March. I like them about 8 or 9 inches long, about the thickness of a pencil.”

MAKE YOUR BED!: From Jordan Bantuelle of the Urban Farmstead: Raised vegetable beds are important because “there is a lot of concern about the high quantity of arsenic and lead in the soil in an urban environment and the possibility of plants taking up those elements. But it’s also important to start with good soil and filling a raised bed with the right soil ensures quality.”

BRING THE BIRDS: From Cathy DiSalvo of the Crescent City Birding Club: “If you’re serious about attracting the widest variety of birds to your yard, then you also want to plant native species because resident birds have adapted to them for food and shelter.”

WHICH WISTERIA?: From Jenks Farmer, author of “Deep Rooted Wisdom”: “There are some native wisterias that are an alternative (to the highly evasive Asian variety). I like Kentucky wisteria because it isn’t nearly as aggressive and doesn’t grow as big as the Asian wisteria.”

NO. 1 GARDENIA: From Tom Wolfe, owner of Urban Roots on Tchoupitoulas: “If you have room for it, nothing beats August Beauty (gardenia).”

COLD FACTS ABOUT PALMS: From John Benton of Bayou Tree Service: When choosing a palm tree, “cold hardiness is one of the most important factors to consider.” Another is mature size. “We have had to transplant palms when they get tall enough that their fronds start rubbing on the roofs of houses.”

PLAN AHEAD: From Gregg Porter, lawyer turned landscape designer, who collaborated with Jeannie McKeough on her old Metairie garden: “To keep things looking good and flowers in bloom year-round, you really have to plan ahead. (Don’t) just go to a big box store and see what looks good.”

CUT TO THE CHASE: From Megan McHugh of Pistil Stamen: In the summer, “you don’t have to rely on zinnias alone (for cut flowers). There are cosmos and sunflowers, too. In the winter months, that’s when bulbs like ranunculus and daffodils can be cut.”

BETTER THAN FLOWERS?: From Meg McNutt of the Pelican Greenhouse in City Park: “Succulents make beautiful bouquets and corsages for weddings as an alternative to flowers. When the event is over, you can take your succulents and plant them. That way you always have a living reminder of the big day.”

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The Godfather of the garden: John Brookes revolutionised gardening with his …

By the time they reach their 80s, even the most dedicated gardeners can slow down a bit. 

But not John Brookes, one of Britain’s most influential garden designers, who at 82 is still writing, teaching, designing gardens all over the world and caring for his own four-acre plot, Denmans in West Sussex, which attracts 20,000 visitors a year.

You may not have heard of him, but if you’ve ever described your garden as ‘an outdoor room’, you’re following in his footsteps. 

John’s 1969 book Room Outside revolutionised the way we thought about gardens

John’s 1969 book Room Outside revolutionised the way we thought about gardens

John’s 1969 book Room Outside revolutionised the way we thought about gardens. ‘It was a new concept: that a garden wasn’t a separate space, but a continuation of the house,’ John explains. ‘It seemed obvious to me – if you have kids, a dog and a social life, all that spills over into the garden, so it needs to reflect your lifestyle and complement your house and its setting.’

It’s been said that John did for British garden design what Elizabeth David did for British food, by opening up our eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. 

‘When I began my career, you either had grand country houses which tried to imitate Sissinghurst, or small town gardens where people would plonk plants around a central lawn and leave it at that,’ John says. 

A garden designed by John himself, his own four-acre plot, Denmans in West Sussex, which attracts 20,000 visitors a year

A garden designed by John himself, his own four-acre plot, Denmans in West Sussex, which attracts 20,000 visitors a year

‘No one gave much thought to design. I wanted to show that design is the starting point, particularly in small gardens as they need a lot of thought.’

The starting point for anyone who has acquired a garden, John says, is to draw a plan. ‘Most people want to rush out and buy plants, because that’s easy and fun. But resist the temptation, and instead make a plan on paper. Go out with a tape measure and draw it to scale. Anyone can do it. Then mark the existing features like trees and shrubs, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of the possibilities.’

A successful design doesn’t have to be complex. ‘A lot of young people use their gardens to grow herbs and vegetables, which I think is wonderful,’ John says. 

‘If your garden is nothing more than four symmetrical raised beds it can look very effective, rather like a Mondrian painting.’ He is unenthusiastic about the vogue for wildflower meadows: ‘It looks sensational when everything is in flower, but once it’s faded it looks so gloomy and you can’t mow for ages if you want it to self-seed.’

Whatever your design, it shouldn’t dominate. John’s own garden, Denmans, is overflowing with beautiful plants, but you only notice how well designed it is when you’ve spent some time there. Winter is one of his favourite times of year, he says, because as the flowers fade you can see ‘the bones of the garden’.

John, who has won four Chelsea gold medals, is still busily writing, taking on design commissions and teaching. He runs regular design seminars online and his students log on from as far afield as New Zealand, Nicaragua, Malaysia and Canada. 

‘The plants and the climate may be different, but everyone wants the same thing – a garden that fits in with their lifestyle, and which they can enjoy all year round,’ John says. ‘Even after more than 50 years, it still gives me huge pleasure to help people achieve that.’

John’s four-week online design courses cost £480. The next one begins on Wednesday; see Denmans Garden is open daily, see


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The American yard, reinvented

Many folks, not to mention homeowners associations, cling to that model of the American yard as one of clipped foundation shrubs, groomed lawns and trees with mulch circles. Naked soil must be blanketed spring and fall with shredded mulch. Fallen leaves are treated as trash.

The real gardening world left this fusty model years ago, embracing soft groupings of perennials, grasses and specimen trees and shrubs in a celebration of plants and a closer communion with nature.

Thomas Rainer and Claudia West are two young plant designers – he’s 39, she’s 32 – who cut their teeth on this aesthetic and are among a new wave of influential practitioners who are pushing this naturalism to the next level.

They reject the popular approach of using indigenous plants exclusively to redeem a wilderness because such a place no longer exists: We’ve spent four centuries on this continent erasing it. Instead, we can bring a natural idiom to all the green places that we live with. Because more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, that means rooftops, city gardens, old suburban yards, parking lots, utility easements, highway medians and the rest.

If we accept that nature as we imagined it resides in the past, they argue, we are free to turn all these immediate spaces, including our gardens, into naturalistic landscapes that will be more satisfying and less work than the lawn and manicured-shrubbery approach.

This premise is not entirely new: A generation ago, top designers were espousing “the New American Garden” with many of the same principles, of replacing lawns and shrubbery with perennials and ornamental grasses.

What has changed at the vanguard of garden design? Many more varieties of perennials are widely available now than in the 1990s and, moreover, the approach to planting design is changing fundamentally.

Rainer, West and others are promoting a shift from clumping and grouping plant varieties to mixing them in a way that occurs in nature. Discrete clumps are replaced with interplanted varieties equipped by nature to live cheek by jowl.

“The key is to pay attention to how plants fit together,” Rainer said. “To pay attention to their shape and behavior.” This involves not only their growth patterns aboveground, but their root types, which permit plants that are surface-rooted, such as many ground covers, to coexist with deep-rooted meadow flowers and grasses.

Such landscapes can look unexpectedly decorative in fall and winter, as the grasses become burnished by the cold and the remnant stalks and seed heads of perennials capture frost and snow.

Significantly, the designers reject the broadly held notion that naturalistic planting has to be of native plants, arguing that a plant’s performance and adaptability are more important than its lineage. “The question is not what grew there in the past but what will grow there in the future,” Rainer and West write in their new book, “Planting in a Post-Wild World.” Aimed at design professionals – though of appeal to anyone who loves the process of gardening – the book is both a design manual and a manifesto.

They see the garden as no longer a collection of plants but rather a designed plant community. This is distilled into three layers. In a sunny, meadow-like garden, the uppermost layer takes the form of beefier structural perennials such as Joe-Pye weed, cup plant or Indian grass. The middle layer is the showiest and provides seasonal peaks with such things as daisies, daylilies, butterfly weeds or bee balms.

The most important layer, the ground cover, is the least showy. Forget tired spreads of English ivy or pachysandra; Rainer and West are thinking of sedges, small grasses, rushes. In shade gardens, the floor layer would consist of such woodland beauties as foamflower, trilliums, gingers and Allegheny spurge.

“The approach to ground cover is, for us, the single most important concept of creating a functioning plant community,” they write. “Think about seeing plants in the wild; there is almost never bare soil.”

The ground cover not only knits together the whole plant community physically and emotionally, but also performs an important horticultural function. Soil left bare will invite weeds, so we smother it in mulch, which has its value, but we keep piling it on for aesthetic rather than horticultural reasons. This is inherently unsustainable and expensive, and keeps lonely plantings in a perpetual state of establishment.

Rainer, who lives in Arlington, Va., is a landscape architect at Rhodeside Harwell in Alexandria, Va. West is a horticulturist and designer with North Creek Nurseries in Landenberg, Pa. Both are popular speakers at symposiums and conventions across the country, where they reach leading landscape designers and horticulturists receptive to this ecological approach.

“It’s going to be the future of landscape design,” said W. Gary Smith, a Toronto- and New York-based landscape architect and a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ education advisory committee. “What these guys are doing is showing how to plant landscapes from the soil up. It’s not just about plant combinations, textures, colors; it’s about looking at plant communities in the wild as an inspiration for design. It’s a hybrid of horticulture and ecology, and it’s been a long time coming.”

“It’s a great concept to be presenting, and hopefully landscape architects and designers will move forward with this,” said Adam Woodruff, a garden designer from Clayton, Mo., who has embraced this approach with elan. “It’s not a style for everyone and it’s not something everyone can do; you have to have an understanding of the plants you’re working with for it to be effective.”

This form of gardening is very exciting, promising to introduce many more underused plants into our gardens and, moreover, to create herbaceously dominant landscapes that are dynamic, ecologically kind and most of all, profoundly beautiful when executed with skill. The potential for it to go wrong is pretty great, though, especially if it is done on a half-baked basis. It takes fortitude and a large budget to plant perennials and ground covers by the hundreds, and I can envision stabs at this that are too timid. One hopes that retail nurseries will make affordable plug plants available to consumers who are willing to maintain a young garden and wait for it to fill in.

The concept faces other obstacles. How do you get people who aren’t gardeners to understand that an assembly of hairy plants is not a weed patch? Rainer told me that it is incumbent on designers to create gardens that can be read as such – by adding more floriferous varieties to the mix, by selecting lower-growing varieties and by setting these plant communities in strong architectural frames with clear edges. “It puts the burden on designers to design in a way that it doesn’t look wild,” he said. “The best design interprets nature; it doesn’t imitate it.”

What about landscape crews programmed to mow, blow, chop back dead top growth and apply pesticides and fertilizers on a schedule rather than nurture a naturalistic design through its establishment stages and through four seasons? “I feel strongly that these mixes can be much lower maintenance,” he said. In the book, he and West talk about a move away from landscape maintenance to a lower pitch of management.

“This is a system based on knowledge rather than labor, and that’s self-limiting in its own way,” he said. “But we feel there is a paradigm shift in how plants are read, and as that knowledge catches up, there can be great benefits to landscape crews and home gardeners alike.”

But perhaps I’m getting mired in the weeds. Not every car on the road today is a sleek, technologically advanced Tesla, but in 20 years it is likely that many more autos will look and work like one.

Smith said such high-profile gardens as the High Line in New York and the Lurie Garden in Chicago are teaching millions about this approach, albeit passively.

And designers such as Smith and Woodruff are finding enlightened clients who fully embrace this approach to landscape design. “I don’t think I would have found that type of client 10 years ago,” Smith said.

“The time is right for this kind of approach,” he said. “People are really beginning to understand this aesthetic.”

– – –

Gardening tip

Don’t rake all those leaves into the street: They make perfect leaf mulch for conditioning garden beds. Shred leaves with a mower, rake them into a mound and collect them into a five-gallon bucket to carry to beds for spreading. A one- to two-inch layer will break down over the winter, with the help of earthworms.

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St Albans garden designer sketches way to success

12:00 02 January 2016

BALI awards plus pix of the River Garden


Garden designer Rosemary Coldstream has sketched her way to success in two categories of a national award scheme.

River Garden

Rosemary, who runs her garden design business from St Mary’s Walk in St Albans, picked up the prizes for design excellence and best newcomer awarded by the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI).

The winning entry was for the River Garden, a St Albans garden which has already picked up a prize from The Society of Garden Designers.

Built for under £50,000, it is a contemporary garden that backs on to a small river, maximising the borrowed view and providing all-year-round enjoyment.

Rosemary, who established her company in 2006 and has worked on projects varying from large country estates to pocket-sized London gardens, said: “The BALI awards celebrate the best of national and international landscape designers and contractors. I am thrilled to be recognised in this way.

“I am particularly excited by the best newcomer award because it’s a prize that usually goes to landscape contractors rather than designers – so I must be doing something right.”

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Value-added home improvements: What’s on your 2016 to-do list?

Are you planning to make home improvements in 2016? Big ones, little ones, which ones? According to the National Association of Realtors, when it comes to remodeling, smaller replacement and enhancement projects continue to give the best returns on investments. With “smaller” being a welcomed word, this is good news for homeowners whether they intend to sell or stay put.

The first and most obvious way to increase home and property value starts with curb appeal. A neighborhood with well-kept landscaping automatically generates charm and pride of ownership. If your front yard is looking a little scruffy, any efforts and costs in cleaning it up will go a long way. Removing dead shrubs and pruning overgrown ones are a good start. Follow this up by assessing the remaining plants and ensuring that their style, shape and color are all compatible. And, although we’ve seen some rain lately, converting to water-wise gardens is still a good idea — as long as the design is well-planned and not a random hodgepodge of mismatched plants and materials.

To instantly upgrade your curb appeal, park all vehicles in your garage, move trinkets and other garden art to the backyard, hide all recycling bins, and simplify the quantity of potted plants. Basketball hoops are an eyesore and, yes, your neighbors can hear the bounce, bounce, bounce and vibrating rebounds. Have a heart and move them to the backyard, too. Unless you have a large country porch, table and chairs look out of place in the front yard. Making such simple and considerate steps will transform the entire aesthetics and value of your neighborhood.

By the way, if your excuse for not parking vehicles in your garage is that there isn’t any room, then add another project to your list. That is, clean out your garage. You have too much “stuff.” Stuff that not only clutters your garage but your emotional and physical well-being. Let “toss and donate” be your mantra for 2016. Think of how liberated you will feel. If you’re not ready to release your abundance of belongings, purchase a ready-made shed in which to store them in your backyard. I promise you that a clean and organized garage with room for a car or two will give you a pep in your step each time you open its door.

On the subject of doors, look to your front door for the next possible improvement. Could it be replaced with one that is more substantial or more fitting to the architectural style of your home? Or, does it merely need a fresh coat of paint or stain? Regardless of the color of your house, a black or red door usually works. As much as I support expressing one’s design individuality, when it comes to front doors, and house colors in general, making more classic choices will keep value from taking a dip.

There are interior projects that are sure to improve your home providing you make smart design decisions. Whether your intent is to change a mood with new paint colors, replace furnishings, remodel a space, or add an additional room, don’t sabotage your investment by not thoroughly thinking it through and creating a good plan from the start.

One of my favorite requests as an interior designer is from homeowners wanting to remodel or add a bathroom. This is partially because tile stores are like my candy stores. Every few months, manufacturers come out with innovative porcelain, ceramic and glass products, and I can hardly wait to pair them with the latest quartz countertop colors. Additionally, plumbing and lighting fixtures are becoming more and more like pieces of sculpted art. No doubt, bathroom design is my playground. But unless I’ve improved upon function, incorporated safe, aging-in-place strategies, and respected my clients’ investment with cost-effective measures, I will have done them a disservice. If I, or anyone, has done a job well, then according to Remodeling Magazine, the return on a bathroom renovation in the Bay Area is consistently favorable and ranging from 75 to more than 100 percent.

Regardless of any remodeling or selling plans this year, Beverly Orr, luxury property specialist at Pacific Union International and Christie’s International Real Estate, reminds us that maintenance is the true measure of home improvement. She recommends that the following be done every year or two: (1) Have air conditioners, furnaces, and washers and dryers professionally inspected. (2) Look for pest and critter droppings under the house, in attics, and in ducts, which can be unhealthy. (3) Drain water heaters to release built-up sediment and keep your heater working efficiently.

Which of these ideas have stirred your creative spirit? Wishing you and your home all the best in 2016.

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New landlord has big ideas for Smithville shopping center

smithville center

smithville center

Harvey Rosenblatt, left Senior Vice President of Shelbourne and Todd Storr, right owner of JD’s Pub Grille in front of Smithville Town Center in Galloway Township Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015. Rosenblatt, has big plans and has spent a lot of time at the Smithville Town Center, even though he doesn’t actually own it yet. He hopes to close the deal to buy it in January, but he has spent the last few months getting to know current tenants, recruiting new ones and trying to learn what’s kept going wrong at the place.

Posted: Friday, January 1, 2016 8:00 pm

New landlord has big ideas for Smithville shopping center


The Press of Atlantic City

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — In the six months or so since he learned that the Smithville Town Center existed, Harvey Rosenblatt has filled a three-ring binder to textbook thickness on the past, present and future of the shopping complex.


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Copy desk chief / comics blogger

© 2016 Press of Atlantic City. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Community Leader: Frisco Association for the Arts ready to take next step

Tammy Meinershagen is the president of Frisco Association for the Arts. To stay updated with all the happenings for the arts in Frisco, visit and sign up for the newsletter.

Q: What are some of the expectations in Frisco for the arts in 2016?

A: I think the key word for the arts in Frisco in 2016 is revitalization. With the passage of $10 million in bonds toward a cultural and performing arts center, Frisco residents made a strong statement of support for the arts. We’ve turned a corner for arts and culture in Frisco, and there is now more momentum toward creative placemaking, finding innovative ways to integrate arts and culture into existing and future areas of the city. New partnerships and collaborative efforts are naturally forming as people are committed to helping the arts thrive in Frisco. One of our goals as Frisco Association for the Arts is to unify the diverse and growing arts community with a new collaborative calendar called FrisGO Arts at This calendar is designed to be the hub for all things arts and culture in Frisco. Arts organizations, businesses, churches, school groups and all arts enthusiasts can search and share content about upcoming concerts, theater, dance, art exhibitions, poetry slams and more. There’s no question that the arts community is strong and vibrant in Frisco, and we are ready to become a true arts destination.

Q: What challenges will the arts community face in the coming year?

A: I define the arts community as creators and consumers of art, which includes students, parents, teachers, amateurs and professionals. That represents a large portion of our citizens, and it only continues to grow as our population rapidly increases. One of the challenges will be accommodating that growth as local arts groups and businesses look for adequate space to perform. There are immediate and pressing needs for a true home for the arts, and until we have one, we will experience growing pains as musical, dance and theater groups resort to rehearsing and performing outside Frisco because of unavailable venues. As a parent of students involved in FISD fine arts, I can attest that even the school auditoriums are overflowing with standing room only for many concerts. There is no lack of dedication to arts in Frisco — just lack of space.

There is also an impending change in City Council leadership at the next election in May. I encourage everyone to register to vote and become acquainted with the candidates running for council. How do they support arts and culture in Frisco? What are their strategies for transforming the city into the cultural arts destination it can be? You can find the Frisco Performing Arts Coalition on Facebook to sign up for their newsletter and stay informed.

Q: What programs are in the works for 2016?

A: One of the exciting programs coming to Frisco in 2016 is the first Frisco Arts Walk, sponsored by Frisco Association for the Arts and hosted by Hall Office Park. This citywide free event will take place Oct. 8 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Hall Office Park. There will be food trucks, live music performances, a kids activity area with arts and crafts, bounce houses, face painting and more. A VIP reception will be held for special guests from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The Frisco Arts Walk celebrates the extensive collection of public art in Frisco. Not many people realize that more than 165 sculptures and other works of art, both international and local, can be found throughout the development grounds of Hall Office Park and in the building lobbies. Part of the Hall Collection is the outdoor Texas Sculpture Garden, which contains 40 contemporary works by Texas artists and is the largest collection of private contemporary Texas sculpture ever assembled. Through the philanthropy and vision of entrepreneur and developer Craig Hall, the entire private collection is free and open to the public to enjoy, along with the beautifully designed grounds featuring lakes, native landscaping and walking trails. “Art is good for the soul. It nurtures the spirit and inspires the imagination,” Hall said.

The Frisco Arts Walk will also feature the Public Art Collection by the city of Frisco, which includes pieces in public places and civic infrastructure all over the city. Because of an ordinance established in 2002 by the Frisco City Council, a percentage of all capital project funds are used to commission public art. This groundbreaking tool has been adopted by more than 350 cities, states and public agencies across the country to help strengthen the community’s cultural identity through its art.

Frisco Arts is looking forward to bringing the community together to celebrate the entire public art collection with an interactive, online map listing all locations, names of artists and mediums used. We are also partnering with Frisco artist Milessa Murphy Stewart, who will be painting a series of abstracts based on the public art. These paintings will be on display at the Frisco Arts Walk, and they are a unique way to show how art inspires us all. We hope families will come enjoy great art, food, and music at the Frisco Arts Walk. Contact Frisco Arts at for more information.

Q: Are there any major fundraisers or events you would like the public to know about in the coming year?

A: Now that Frisco Arts has transitioned out of managing and operating the Frisco Discovery Center, we are committed to returning to our original mission of advocating for the arts, expanding the cultural, artistic and educational opportunities in Frisco, raising funds and awareness for our local arts groups and serving as the liaison to distribute city funding. Currently, Frisco Arts grants funds to 15 local nonprofit arts groups and awards scholarships to an FISD and Collin College student pursuing a career in arts. Some of our arts partners include the Frisco Community Theatre, Frisco Chorale, Frisco Youth Theatre, Frisco Youth Symphony, Astraios Chamber Ensemble, Collin County Ballet Theatre, Frisco Ballet, Institute of Global Music and Arts and more. There are inspiring stories from each of our groups about the impact of the arts to students, parents and their surrounding community, such as providing concerts to school children who experience an orchestra for the first time, teaching students with learning disabilities how to dance, blending professionals with students on the same stage to perform together and introducing unique cultural music to Frisco citizens. We encourage all nonprofit arts organizations in Frisco to apply and become an arts partner. The 2016-2017 grant application is online at friscoarts .org and is due March 1.

One of our goals this year is to strengthen our community outreach and find ways to weave arts into the fabric of Frisco. Some of our new initiatives include a House Chamber Music or Clubhouse Chamber Music series, creating an intimate concert setting with wine, appetizers and a talented string quartet or ensemble. We also want to infuse more arts into downtown Frisco with pop-up art and other arts events. We are working with the Frisco Education Foundation to provide an arts component to the Mindbender Academy, which is traditionally more math/science oriented. We’re brainstorming with the Public Library Foundation to create a storytelling event with live music. We plan to organize a Youth Leadership Arts Council to educate and train the next generation of arts advocates. The future of the arts in Frisco is bright and strong, and we are thrilled to lead the way. To stay updated with all the happenings for the arts in Frisco, visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

A: As a musician and teacher, I believe exposure and involvement in the arts are essential to a healthy, balanced life. Art gives us time to reflect, it inspires creativity and it unites a community. Each of us has a unique perspective, and when it is shared through the universal language of art, it has the power to change lives. Music, dance, theater, visual art and the written word have all had a significant impact in history, and they compose the heart and soul of a city. So whether you are a creator or consumer of art, I welcome you to the vibrant arts community in Frisco. I’m looking forward to working together to further arts and culture in our growing city. I’d love to hear your ideas over a cup of coffee.

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