Painter Chapman Kelley visits with William “Bill” Carter of the fabled Prairie Moon Nursery
October 8, 2018
Kelley’s 66,000 sq. ft. public artwork, the noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 – 2004, the subject of an important artists’ rights dispute that reached the Supreme Court of the United States in the early-2010s, utilized 100% Illinois native plants.
Reached at his Chicago studio, Chapman Kelley shares his thoughts about his visit to the U.S. native plant and seed producer, Prairie Moon Nursery.
“Recently, members of the Chapman Kelley Wildflower Works Foundation toured the site of Prairie Moon Nursery, located in southeastern Minnesota, not far from the Mississippi River.
“Our host was Prairie Moon Nursery president William ‘Bill’ Carter who said he was honored to share with us his knowledge about how the nursery’s predecessors had furnished some of the seeds for the Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 – 2004, my noncommissioned artwork. Immediately upon hearing Bill say that, I felt a strong kinship. It brought back a flood of memories. Carter and I shared stories and discussed the beginnings of the native plant movement. Our common hopes and dreams for the future of it were evident as we assessed its current state of affairs. Bill said the U.S. is in the grip of a wildflower ‘mania,’ and that in some locales, it is mandatory to have native plants for all new landscaping. He was amazed at how youngsters on nursery tours eagerly display an impressive command of native plants and the natural environment in general. Bill told us that when the hiring season for nursery summer jobs begins, at once young people demonstrate a keen enthusiasm and commitment to join the ‘green’ movement in a very real way. My impression is that the nursery is first and foremost among the land that is the most ‘beyond beautiful’ anywhere in the world.
“One of the purposes of creating the Chapman Kelley Wildflower Works Foundation by Olan Hankins, John A. Viramontes and myself was to teach the public about how we must each work together to convert all landscaping to indigenous plants, thereby realizing the environmental goal of saving at least one-half of U.S. potable water. The Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 – 2004absolutely proved such a potable water savings could be achieved. As a bonus benefit consequence, our natural pollinator allies would contemporaneously reap the reward of having newly created habitat. And the Foundation wholehearted agrees with Prairie Moon Nursery’s nutshell philosophy:
“Bill and I agreed about the need to continue adhering to the highest standard of professionalism and integrity of plant materials.
“John and I were particularly impressed with Bill’s choice of lifestyle; one surrounded by an abundance of lush greenery and beneficial insect pollinators. The nursery grounds undoubtedly impart and reinforce the notion of having mother nature in visitors’ current and future life plans.
“The glorious day when folks in the broader native plant movement realize the U.S. must convert entirely to native plants, Prairie Moon Nursery would absolutely be the first with resources to furnish the trees, grasses, shrubs, et cetera, as well as wildflowers, reflecting Prairie Moon’s 350 acres of indigenous plants infused with a true natural spirit.
“A great lesson was stunningly illustrated when we observed a huge number of Monarch butterflies feasting on the nectar of Meadow Blazing Star flowers. The example of the Monarch’s use of the milkweed plant as host for their offspring is widely used. However, the chain is not complete without knowing that adult Monarchs must be nourished and energized by other favorite blooms. We must raise our sight and look also to the future.
“Prairie Moon’s future position of leadership as shining example is assured in the U.S.”
Above image is of the 66,000 sq. ft. noncommissioned public artwork Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 – 2004, located in lakeside Grant Park. The iconic Buckingham Fountain is in the distance. The artwork bloomed during three seasons. It required no tap water, and used no fertilizer or insecticide after a short start-up period. During its winter dormancy the artwork delighted photographers who were attracted to it as tawny-colored sculpture. Photo credit Chapman Kelley
For more information, please contact:
Chapman Kelley Wildflower Works Foundation