Saturday, July 18, 2015

Calumet Art Center holds Grand Opening of new Heritage Rose Garden

From Calumet Art Center
Photos by Emily Newhouse

Visitors to the Calumet Art Center enjoy the July 3 Grand Opening of the Center's new Heritage Rose Garden. (Photos © and courtesy Emily Newhouse unless otherwise indicated.)

CALUMET -- The Calumet Art Center celebrated the Grand Opening of their newly planted Heritage Rose Garden on July 3 during the First Friday Art Walk. Visitors enjoyed light refreshments and cups of rose-hip tea for the occasion. The Rose Garden is the newest addition to the Center and offers a pleasant downtown Calumet outdoor retreat for doing art projects, holding a drumming circle or just sitting and meditating.

The garden is the result of the serendipitous meeting of fellow local gardeners Dawn Andersson and Karena Schmidt. About ten years ago Dawn, who can coax life out of all things green and has a particular love for roses, began collecting snippets pruned from roses growing in overgrown, untended cemeteries and abandoned homesteads throughout the Keweenaw. These old roses are survivors -- cold-hardy, fragrant, disease resistant, many petaled and blushing in myriad shades of pink. These are the roses that beautified the gardens of early settlers and honored the departed at their gravesides. It did not take long before Dawn's garden in Calumet was burgeoning with thriving specimens of her collected roses. Yet for Dawn and her husband, Bob, their primary desire was to have a garden fit for growing vegetables and the flourishing roses occupied too much space. They determined the roses would need to be planted elsewhere in order to make way for produce.

In addition to the flowers beds in the Heritage Rose Garden, a space is provided for activities such as art projects and a drumming circle. Pathways allow visitors to walk through the garden.

Dawn and Karena casually discussed options for the roses one evening last September and they came up with the idea of planting a rose garden for the local community and visitors to enjoy. The idea of cultivating the roses at the Calumet Art Center seemed ideal and the idea was presented to Director Ed Gray and the Board members. The Heritage Rose Garden proposal met with resounding approval.  The garden layout was designed by Karena in part to fulfill her Master Gardener's certification.  Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto and his crew generously demonstrated their support for the rose garden early this spring by tilling up the lawn and providing wood chips for mulch.

In early May, a few days after the soil was tilled, while Dawn was busy at home digging up the still winter-dormant roses, Bob, Ed and Karena kept busy preparing the ground and digging holes in the new garden. In keeping with Ojibwa tradition, into each hole a pinch of sacred tobacco was sprinkled before planting, mulching, and watering. The good folks at Pat's Foods saved cardboard boxes for the project. Bonny Lynn and Karena flattened them and placed them thickly all around the roses so that weeds will be held in check. Over the cardboard innumerable pails of wood mulch were hauled and distributed by local artisan Barb Flannagin, township workers and Art Center board members. The physical labor and contributions of volunteers were many, giving the garden a foundation of community spirit and resulting in one of those "what blesses one blesses all" situations.

Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto and other volunteers helped with tilling and provided the wood-chip mulch, pictured here.

Complementing the garden are five comfortable two-seater benches and a picnic table. These benches are part of a fund-raiser for the Art Center. For $350 one can procure a bench, and a named plaque will be secured to the bench to honor the donor. The garden has a grand wooden arch entryway, wheelchair accessible, commissioned by Felix and Virginia Fournier -- who have been great enthusiasts for the Art Center. At the core of the garden is a five-foot metal sculpture designed and built by Brenden Keenan. This work of art poignantly reflects an important dynamic in Calumet, the juxtaposition of the tender beauty of the roses and the starkness of the rusting metal remains of industrial equipment, reminding us of the mining ventures of nearly a century ago.

The Rose Garden's grand wooden arch entryway, wheelchair accessible, was commissioned by Felix and Virginia Fournier. (Photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)

In mid-May 24 students from Carroll College in Milwaukee enrolled in  Ed Gray's "Footprints of the Ancestors" class  -- a full-immersion one-week course where students learn and participate in keeping alive the traditions of the Ojibwa. These students gathered stones from the Superior shoreline and surrounded the garden with their geologic finds of Keweenaw basalts, granites, porphyrites, and other volcanic wonders.

The roses -- which include the floppy-branched Gallicas, sacred Damasks and highly scented Bourbons, are planted in four concentric rings with pathways guiding the wanderer from one ring to the next. At the east edge of the garden is a crescent shaped flower-bed with a mix of perennial plants that show their glory in the springtime, prior to the roses blooming. To the west is another crescent garden-bed with plants that will bloom in late summer. As the roses adjust to their new home, refinements to the gardens will continue to unfold. In this first season it is expected about one-third of the roses will bloom.

The Calumet Art Center is located at 57055 5th St. Learn more about the Art Center's many traditional art-based activities and classes for youngsters and adults, including the "Footprints of the Ancestors" class, by visiting their website or phoning (906) 934-2228. It is hoped that many will visit often to stroll the garden, enjoy the beauty, inhale the delicate fragrances, sit on the benches.  Come alone or with friends to engage in conversation, reflect, and find some measure of peace in this new garden for the community -- a sanctuary created by community spirit.

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