Thursday, April 25, 2013  |   Email   Print

‘Places for the Spirit’ Photography Exhibit Highlights Traditional African-American Gardens at Cleveland Botanical Garden

From a fabulous garden adorned with brilliantly painted shoes in Mississippi to an Alabama backyard with an old swing set repurposed to hold hanging plants, photographer Vaughn Sills captures stunning images of African-American folk gardens and their creators.

Her powerful pictures — taken over several years as she traveled the Deep South — are featured in the photography exhibit “Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens” from June 28 through September 29 at Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Guren Art Gallery. The exhibit is free with Garden admission.

Sills, who lives in Boston, developed her collection of images from a street-by-street search through small towns for these important but vanishing pieces of the American landscape. She says the one-of-a-kind gardens are places to socialize and be creative, but they also serve mystical purposes in some cases. Bottles on tree branches are intended to capture evil spirits, and pipes placed vertically on the ground are meant to allow the spirits of ancestors to communicate.

The African-American folk gardens discovered by Sills and featured in the exhibit range from whimsical to spiritual and carry historical significance — having been influenced by the gardens of American slaves and their African heritage.

The black-and-white photographs of these beautiful gardens and their equally beautiful creators also are featured in a book of the same name, which can be purchased in The Garden Store throughout the run of “Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens” in the Garden’s Guren Art Gallery.

Cleveland Botanical Garden is located at 11030 East Boulevard in Cleveland’s University Circle cultural district. Admission is $9.50 for adults, $4 for kids ages 3-12 and free for Garden members and children under 3. For information, please call 216.721.1600 or visit


Cleveland Botanical Garden receives public support through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom O'Konowitz,, 216.707.2818

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