The Gratitude Garden

Term: 1 Year: 2019

The Gratitude Garden was a cross-curricular art installation created by Prep students at Peninsula Grammar, Mount Eliza. Each student created four flowers using different media and recorded something they were grateful for on the reverse. These flowers were exhibited together as a ‘garden’ at the Junior Years Art Show – exhibition attendees were invited to remove a flower to take with them. The Gratitude Garden connected inquiry (and focused on wellbeing) with visual art. Dee Zabel explains how she guided her students to practice mindfulness through making and giving.

We started the unit by reading Rana DiOrio’s story, What does it Mean to be Present? This prompted students to discuss mindfulness and consider what it means to be grateful – how do we show gratitude? The students were introduced to the artist David Hockney, who is well known for sending iPad artworks of flowers to his friends. They agreed that Hockney sent his flower artworks as a gesture of appreciation. Flowers became the symbol for gratitude and this underpinned our entire unit. Focus artists also included Vincent Van Gogh, Margaret Preston, Georgia O’Keeffe and Yayoi Kusama. All of these artists created artworks depicting flowers using different media, techniques and aesthetic qualities.

When making their flowers, students rotated between tables of materials, along with provocations, that were devoted to some of the art elements. They worked independently to explore and create using line, shape, colour and texture. Their final artworks were four flowers that uniquely interpreted the art elements. Students cut out their flowers and recorded something they were grateful for on the back.

Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room from the NGV’s Triennial exhibition was used as stimulus to assemble our Gratitude Garden. Audience participation was integral to Kusama’s work – exhibition attendees were invited to stick a flower in the space, resulting in a room obliterated with flowers. Our garden was created when students ‘obliterated’ three canvases with their flowers.

During our art show, visitors were invited to remove a flower as a gift. As the flowers disappeared, the words ‘I AM GRATEFUL’ were revealed. The response from our visitors was overwhelmingly positive. People of all ages smiled when they realised they could take a flower home. Some flowers were worn as badges, while many of the Kindergarten students attached them to the side of their lockers to enjoy. It wasn’t necessary for students to take their own flowers home; the goal was to make someone else feel happy!

Dee Zabel
Visual Arts Teacher
Peninsula Grammar, Mount Eliza