Recreation and Rain

May Meet In Mutual at Baxter Park

Co-designing a community rain garden with discussions on public land use, regional climates and the power of plants.


Baxter said: “a common ground where all may meet in mutual acknowledgement of their dependence the one upon the other.”

In 2012, Holly was invited alongside eight other artists including Morgan Cahn, Sarah Johnston, Rebecca Jones, Hannah Moitt, Emma Reid, Katie Reid, Beth Savage and Holly Knox Yeoman to present site responsive works for a new exhibition in Baxter Park Urban Rangers Centre. The exhibition was organised by May Meet In Mutual, a collaboration between sisters Katie and Emma Reid to create spaces for artist collaborations.

Katie and Emma’s collaborative title, and the title for this exhibition, is inspired by an excerpt of the speech Sir David Baxter gave at the opening of Baxter Park in 1863. With money made through their successful linen manufacturing firm, Mary-Ann, Eleanor and David Baxter donated the park in the hope that it would provide leisure space for the people of Dundee.

The historic reasoning behind the creation of Baxter Park by the textile merchants was to provide their employees with a place to enjoy recreational activities. However, the sincerity of this gesture can be questioned when so many of the Baxter's employees were required to work upto eighteen hours per day and therefore had little time or energy for personal relaxation.

Beginning from the contradictions within this philanthropic gesture, Holly began an investigation into what recreation was and is now, how much time we have for it and how parks, like Baxter Park, are enjoyed by many as their prime or only access to open, green spaces. Yet such parks still harbor contradictions as their management by Regional Councils often limits the activities that are permitted in these spaces - especially as recreation (to re-create/restore) is overtaken by leisure (to be allowed to be unoccupied) as the dominant past time.  One activity that is particularly limited is gardening.  

Park users were invited to discuss if gardening should be an activity only for those with access to private land? 
And how the 165 days of annual rainfall impacts how they spend their time yet is essential for the green-ness of their landscape. 

Beginning with screen printed illustrations of the Urban Rangers Center and a small booklet of sewing templates for plants that can be sown to create a rain garden, park-users could share their dreams of how they would like to use ‘The People’s Park’ whilst also sewing a co-design for a rain garden into pillow cases. 

These proposals and designs were shared with the City Council Parks Unit. There were also further discussions and a hosted gardening afternoon with the Friends of Baxter Park Community Group to encourage increased access to gardening as an activity for park-users. 

The Sew ‘n’ Grow booklets were free to be taken home to create a rain garden somewhere where water collects. The booklets provided information on how rain gardens can be planted to clean urban rain water and therefore how to think with a multi-functionality approach to gardening. Whilst the plant templates provided the opportunity for visitors to continue sewing their own embroided gardens designs at home even without their own private access to land.

Feel free to try sewing your own rain garden using the booklet below for guidance!

(C) HOLLY KEASEY 2020 — GO UP︎︎︎