Imagine walking into a sunny space and looking up to see a sprawling field of flowers with blooms more numerous than you can count. Imagine an explosion of color chains held together by thin copper wire. Imagine the subtle fragrance of blooms drying in the air and the sight of upturned faces awed by the immersive environment.
On June 9, 2017, Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens will debut Casa Coastal: Rebecca Louise Law, a specially-commissioned artistic experience. The artwork, which will be the first installation piece of its kind for South Orange County, is a pivotal community engagement project involving hundreds of individuals, one famous artist and a campaign to grow 8,000 blooms.
Once hung by the Rebecca Louise Law studio, the installation will dry slowly in the Casa Romantica Gallery over the course of its two-month exhibition. A variety of supporting programs and events throughout the summer will educate the community about the benefits of native and drought-tolerant horticulture.
When Casa Romantica envisioned the next phase of its gallery program early in 2016, they had goals to fulfill. The cultural center, known for years as a historic landmark, has evolved into an epicenter for the arts in South Orange County.
Along with exposing residents to remarkable art, they also wanted to empower them to take part in another aspect of the center’s mission: changing the public’s perception about the value of native horticulture.
“We in southern California are all experiencing the effects of living in a drought,” says Executive Director Berenika Schmitz.
“People visit the gardens at Casa Romantica to learn about incorporating water-wise California plants and other drought-tolerant plants into their landscape. By educating them about responsible horticulture, our fellow citizens conserve precious water supplies and preserve the natural beauty of our coastal habitat.
“We wondered if there was a way that we might be able to combine that education with creativity — to produce art that would unite our community with a common goal.”
The timing was perfect when Casa Romantica discovered the work of British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law.
Ms. Law is renowned for her artworks created with natural materials, namely flora. Every installation uses materials that are representative of the region she is commissioned in, and her preference for site-specific blooms contribute to the uniqueness of each installation. As an advocate of natural change and preservation, she allows her work to evolve as nature takes its course.
Law is used to doing works that require an entire community to put together — she has fulfilled commissions for international brands Viacom, Tiffany, and Hermès, and her original works at major public spaces like NYC Times Square and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) have drawn the praise of everyone from the New York Times to the Oprah Network. So when she told Casa Romantica that she needed 8,000 local blooms for her studio to create a June 2017 installation, it presented a unique opportunity for Orange County residents to get involved.
“We realize that there is no way that we, limited by our 2.5-acre property, can grow 8,000 blooms in one year,” says Schmitz. “But with the help of our local community, we can.”
The Casa Coastal: Rebecca Louise Law initiative began in October 2016 when Casa Romantica launched a grassroots campaign to reach Southern Orange County families, volunteers, professional and amateur gardeners.
It turns out that almost everyone in South Orange County is interested in contributing. The Saddleback College horticultural program will be heavily involved with the the project throughout their spring semester. Numerous garden groups and both Orange County Master Gardener associations have signed on to join the cause. Girl Scout troops helped to sow the very first exhibition plots, and students from the Capistrano Unified School District will help with the harvest during May field trips. An honorary committee of native horticulture experts has also formed, with ambassadors from Roger’s Gardens, Saddleback College, local nursery Shore Gardens, and garden bloggers. The committee will write articles, present demonstrations, and offer advice to participants throughout the course of the initiative.
If you would like to help Casa Romantica reach its goal of 8,000 blooms, the cultural center seeks residents who will grow a plant for the exhibition at home. Novice gardeners can receive added help by attending free onsite workshops to learn about caring for native and drought-tolerant plants and buy mature seedlings from partnering nurseries. If your thumb simply won’t turn green, you can give the gift of a monetary donation. All blooms and cuttings will be delivered to the cultural center during the last two weeks of May, and volunteers will help sort each bloom for the Rebecca Louise Law studio to use when they arrive from London on June 2.
Casa Coastal: Rebecca Louise Law is on view from June 9 – August 13, 2017, at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens: 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672. For more information, visit CasaRomantica.org or call 949.498.2139.