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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’kmaq 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 of Indigenous flora across Turtle Island 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. Working with curator Lisa Myers and the Finding Flowers project, MSVU Art Gallery is revisiting the original butterfly garden, seeking to re-plant the butterfly garden and renew the quiet, contemplative nature of MacDonald’s work.

About the Artist

Mike MacDonald (1941-2006) was a Mi’kmaq 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’kmaq 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.

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’kmaq artist Mike MacDonald. Please visit the program page for Finding Flowers and Butterflies at MSVU for more information.

Get Involved!

Community members are invited to share stories or images of Mike and his garden – we’d love to connect! Please reach out to the Gallery at art.gallery@msvu.ca. To receive updates about the Butterfly Garden, please subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom right corner of this page.