Friendship Garden

At the Friendship Garden in Mattoon, artist Sarah Marjanovic stands beside the new interpretive sign which she helped to create.

MATTOON -- It may be autumn here in the Midwest, but at the Douglas-Hart Foundation’s Friendship Garden in Mattoon, spring flowers are blossoming. In fact, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths will be blooming perpetually in 2-D (two-dimensions) because the flowers grace a new interpretive sign.

The informative sign reads “Rooted in History. Growing for Community.” Commenting about the title is Marissa Grant, the Land Stewardship Director for the Douglas-Hart Nature Center: “The sign is intended to let people know that the garden is a public place, established for use by the community; and the sign offers historical references.”

According to Grant, the creative process, which culminated with the sign’s installation this summer, was exciting. “The first step was searching through a collection of pictures to find those certain photographs of interest and of high quality," she said.

Grant added that compiling the sign’s text required in-depth research and meticulous composition. “The text had to be enlightening yet brief. It was gratifying to achieve that, but the fun part for me was working with an artist who took an active role in all stages of the sign’s development.”

Featuring the work of Sarah Marjanovic of Champaign, the sign reveals her skill in both graphic design and the fine arts. Marjanovic’s lovely illustration of the colorful spring blossoms emphasizes the sign’s message: “Sprouting from Helen Douglas-Hart’s imagination and generosity, the garden grows for you.”

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The text’s friendly font and pleasant green-tinted lettering serve to entice the passer-by to stop and read. Cleverly manipulated photos of historic garden scenes appear as whimsical Polaroid snapshots, drawing one’s eye immediately is the artistically enhanced photograph of the elderly Helen Douglas-Hart wearing a red sweater and holding a bouquet.

“When I first saw the sign while visiting the Friendship Garden, I thought ‘What a wonderful addition!’” says Nancy Coutant of Charleston, a volunteer and board member for the Douglas-Hart Foundation. “Then, I noticed the caption beside Helen Douglas-Hart’s photo describing her as ‘a visionary.’ I thought ‘How true!’”

Coutant added, “I believe Helen Douglas-Hart’s original munificence has inspired others. Many have been the incidents of generosity over the years. Individuals from all walks of life donate time and money for the continuation of the Douglas-Hart Nature Center.”

A grant from the Mattoon Community Trust paid the cost accrued for the printing and construction of the sign, which measures 3-feet by 4-feet, is composed of a durable all-weather laminate material, and is mounted at a slant for ease of reading.

At the Friendship Garden, the new sign invites us all to "take a stroll, meet a friend, host an outdoor event." Any day is a good time to accept that invitation, but you may wish to do so soon. On Saturday, Oct. 9, Don Sol, a local Mexican food truck, will be parked at the garden from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and will be donating 10 percent of each patron’s payment to the Douglas-Hart Nature Center.

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