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Mike MacDonald’s Butterfly Garden Revisited

January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022

Year 2022 Organized by MSVU Art Gallery

Inspired by his encounters with butterflies and their connection to medicine plants and healing, the late Mi’kmaw artist Mike MacDonald created butterfly gardens as spaces of care and coexistence. With tender attentiveness to the land and its inhabitants, MacDonald planted these gardens across the land known as Canada from 1995-2003. He also created a series of accompanying video works, using his documentation of the gardens and their butterflies. One of the first gardens was located on the Mount Saint Vincent University campus as part of the 1997 exhibition Digital Garden. Since 2019, MSVU Art Gallery has been in conversation with curator Lisa Myers and the Finding Flowers project, seeking to renew the quiet, contemplative nature of Mike’s work through revisiting and re-planting his original butterfly garden.

Replanting the Garden

Lisa Myers will be at MSVU Art Gallery June 27-30 to begin the re-planting of the butterfly garden. MSVU Art Gallery invites you to come by the garden to see its progress and learn more about Mike, his gardens, and the work of Finding Flowers. The garden area is located near the Art Gallery exterior side entrance. For directions and location information, please visit the Plan Your Visit page. Drop-in times are:

Tuesday, June 28 from 11:00am-2:00pm
Wednesday, June 29 from 3:00pm-6:00pm
Thursday, June 30 from 11:00am-2:00pm

Sharing Stories

MSVU Art Gallery is seeking to create a collection of stories about Mike and his gardens. If you knew Mike or remember the original garden at MSVU, we would love to hear from you or see any images that you’d like to share. Come by the garden during the drop-in hours or you can contact the Gallery at There will be more programming and opportunities to learn from the garden in the coming months, so please stay tuned for future updates.

Plant Donations

Mike’s gardens were created with care, reciprocity, and respect for the natural world, prioritizing Indigenous knowledge and medicines, and contemplation over consumption. MSVU Art Gallery is wanting to re-build the garden with the help of others who share those values and a love of plants. If you would like to donate a plant, in the form of a small transplant from your garden, germinated seeds, or other form of plant sharing, it would be most welcome. Each garden that Mike created was unique and this re-planting will include the same plants as the original. We have already secured donations for a number of plants but are still hoping to find a few more – if you would like to donate a plant from the list below, please contact (before June 30 if possible) and indicate which plant you would like to offer to the garden. Please visit MSVU Art Gallery’s Instagram account for images of these plants.

Bee Balm
Canada Anemone
Chamomile, Dyer’s
Coreopsis, Dyer’s (red)
Coreopsis, Dyer’s (yellow)
Coreopsis, Early Sunrise
Cosmos, Dyer’s
Dame’s Rocket

Jacob’s Ladder (white)
Lobelia, Great Blue
Mount Atlas Daisy
Obedient Plant / False Dragonhead
Violet, Early Blue

On the Wings of a Butterfly: Discussing the work of
Mike MacDonald, wild pollinators, ecology and art

Finding Flowers and Butterflies at MSVU

Friday, March 25 at 2:00pm (online)

Guest speakers Lisa Myers, an artist and curator, and Dr. Sheila Colla, a native-bee ecologist, presented about their collaborative project Finding Flowers, and the work of late Mi’kmaw artist Mike MacDonald. Please visit the program page for Finding Flowers and Butterflies at MSVU for more information.

About the Artist

Mike MacDonald (1941-2006) was a Mi’kmaw artist born in Sydney, Nova Scotia. His self-taught practice focused on the environment and natural world, incorporating plants and animals in much of his work. He found inspiration in both his Indigenous ancestry and Western sources, drawing from science as well as traditional medicine and ethnobotany. His works have been featured in exhibitions across Turtle Island and worldwide. In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious Jack and Doris Shadbolt Prize from the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts and in 2000 he received the first Aboriginal Achievement Award for New Media presented at the Toronto imagiNATIVE Festival.

About the Curator

Lisa Myers is an independent curator, artist and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. She is currently co-leading an interdisciplinary research project with ecologist Dr Sheila Colla considering wild pollinators, ecology, and art, wherein Myers has focused on the gardens by the late Mi’kmaw artist Mike MacDonald. Myers is working towards a retrospective of MacDonald’s artwork to open at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in the summer of 2022. She has an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial practice from OCAD University, is Port Severn based and is a member of Beausoleil First Nation.