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Territory of Collaboration

Brendan Bannon


A front yard need not be just a grassy area that separates the house from the sidewalk– it can also be a major artistic statement. That’s exactly what curator Claire Schneider was going for when she decided to undertake an urban infrastructure project that would transform her private garden at 47 Bidwell Parkway into a public sculpture. On Saturday June 7, from 8 a.m.–noon, she invites the public to help celebrate the launch of this project. 



“I wanted to create a garden that was like a piece of sculpture,” says Schneider, who drew her inspiration from Robert Irwin, designer of the Central Garden at the Getty Center. Titled Territory of Collaboration, the work is commissioned and produced by CS1 curatorial projects, which Schneider founded in 2013.



The masterminds behind this grand endeavor are conceptual artist Alfonso Volo (top, left) and landscape designer Matthew Dore (top, right), who are collaboratively bringing Schneider’s ideas to life. The complex design builds on the templates of Schneider’s house, which she bought in 2007. Images from the Getty Garden are also echoed in the landscaping. In keeping with green themes, water from a downspout gutter will run into a garden navel, which will direct rain water into the soil. The depression is lined with medina sandstone bricks, a popular local building media used in both the house and the nearby curb. The usage of hedges also reflect Irwin’s concepts.


“While there are a lot of great gardens in Buffalo,  structured  gardens like this, using hedges and defining space, are a lot less common,” says Dore.


The house, originally constructed in the 1890s, includes shades of pink, red, blue and green. Selected plants will not only mimic the Victorian colors of the building, but also the shapes and patterns. Nigella, a plant with threadlike leaves that grows about eighteen inches tall, will pick up the form of the lamp post. Other plants will recreate the texture of the scalloped cedar siding and the bulb-shaped golden turret. A weeping blue spruce highlights a hidden space that Schneider says represents the unconscious of the building.


Schneider, who has been a curator for fifteen-twenty years with a life-long interest in gardening and horticulture, has been slowly restoring her rental property. This summer, she’s painting the front façade; last year she finished the back. Soon enough, plants like oak leaf hydrangeas, tree peonies and smoke bushes, which provide four-season interest, will create a rich and lively display all year-round. 


“All of my tenants will have a special thing to look at,” says Schneider. There is no doubt that the view from their windows will not be that that of an ordinary front yard.


This 1,200-square-foot outdoor living installation will be complete by Garden Walk, but Schneider hopes people will enjoy the early stages of its creation. On Saturday, garden-lovers will get the opportunity to engage in a plant swap. Schneider will be giving away two special annuals, nigellas and the bunny tail grass, will plays on Volo’s interest in bunnies, a reoccurring theme in his work. Coffee and bread will be served at the event. “I just want people to have a good time and see what gardens can be,” says Schneider.


Mariam Makatsaria is a student at Kent State University and a Spree intern.

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