Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence: Anita Cazzola: Botanical Reclamation

Congratulations to Anita Cazzola, the City of Guelph’s 2021 Artist in Residence

This summer, Guelph-based artist Anita Cazzola, will showcase her Botanical Reclamation project that celebrates the resiliency of wild plants through naturally dyed textiles, and offers the community a chance to learn about local plant life, and the natural dye process through self-guided walks, weekly scavenger hunts, project livestreams, workshops, question and answer sessions, and artist talks with the help of various project partners and collaborators.
Follow Anita’s Instagram account for #BotanicalReclamation project updates
Sign up for ‘Dye Plant of the Week’ email updates
Dye Plants in Curious Spaces Online Archive
From June to September, Cazzola will investigate, ‘Curious Spaces,’ a term she coined referring to natural spaces that have experienced human-inflicted environmental disruption, and have begun a return to a natural state through the re-introduction of indigenous and invasive plant species. She will gently harvest the plants that have reclaimed these sites to create a body of textile artworks using colours from the plants.

Cazzola says she hopes knowledge about the natural dye process will expand perspectives about the textile industry, creating more awareness of sustainable alternatives to fast fashion and material culture.

“This summer holds a lot of hope as our community begins to navigate our way out of a global pandemic. I believe that learning about the resilience of plants will provide inspiration and encouragement for us all to begin to rebuild our connections in meaningful ways.”


Through the process of harnessing colour from plants and applying them to textiles, the community will gain a visual and tactile connection with the power of these local plants. Textiles and human bodies are intrinsically connected, and the forms they take in our garments, sheets, furniture, and comfort objects act as a second skin in our daily lives. This tactile and phenomenological relationship makes textiles the perfect medium for this message of resiliency.


Each artwork will consist of naturally dyed textiles – both fabrics and yarns, and will respond to a site that the artist has engaged with. These naturally dyed fabrics will be stitched into patchwork compositions, and the yarns will be woven into cloth. These two textile construction techniques speak a similar language—they are the bringing together of various elements to form a surface. The components work in conjunction and in response to one another, just as the biodiversity of plants work together to create our landscapes.

The artist will employ the language of flags when creating this work. Flags can signify both a warning and a celebration, resistance and solidarity, dominance and subordination—all in relation to place and beings. In this context, a naturally dyed flag serves as a symbol of botanical resilience—a proud emblem of reclamation of a space.

The works will be made to fit within existing natural & man-made structures, voids, and obtrusions on each site. For example, a flag could be installed between abandoned fence posts, on old signage structures, hung from tree branches, etc.

Community engagement

This project will focus on process, experimentation, and learning from local plants, and community members’ involvement will be essential. By acquiring knowledge about plants and their importance in our ecosystem, Guelphites will become better equipped to advocate for the presence of these species and the preservation of wild spaces. Knowledge about the natural dye process will expand perspectives about the textile industry, creating more awareness of sustainable alternatives to fast fashion & material culture.

Community involvement will take many forms to be inclusive to all ages, comfort levels, and physical abilities, as detailed below:

Self-guided plant walks

The artist will facilitate 5 self-guided plant walks through Curious Spaces sites throughout the summer. These will be led virtually by the artist with the help of Zhyfhs Millicent (of Planting Radiance) and signage made in collaboration with local illustrator Jenna Kessler.

Dye Plants in Curious Spaces: Weekly Scavenger hunt

A weekly ‘dye plant scavenger hunt’ will focus on a particular dye plant that is in season. The “Dye Plant of the Week” will be announced on Sunday mornings (via social media channels), and members of the community are challenged to look for these plants in their local environments throughout the week. Community members will be encouraged to send in photographs (and, if possible, coordinates) of the plants they find for inclusion in the “Dye Plants in Curious Spaces” online archive to @neatcazzola on Instagram or via email at [email protected].

Process livestreams

In conjunction with the Dye Plant of the Week, the artist will livestream the dyepots brewing and fabrics drying as they explore the dye properties of the weekly dye plant of focus. Participants in the scavenger hunt can see how the dye plants interact with the fibers, and community members can witness the magic of the natural dye process in a quiet & private online space.

“Dye Plants in Curious Spaces” online archive

This online archive will link from this project page and be the central hub of knowledge for community reference. Here the artist will document dye notes, samples, pressed flowers/leaves, researched plant information, process livestream videos, and community photo submissions from weekly scavenger hunts curated over the duration of the project. An interactive map will be generated to document the locations of various plant species that our community has found. The archive will also feature Jenna Kessler’s illustrations as a ‘header’ for each dye plant that is featured in the archive.

Outdoor Natural Dye workshops

The artist will facilitate 3 Natural Dye Workshops for small groups, if COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Question and answer (Q&A), and interview sessions

The artist will host two virtual Q&A sessions with local collaborators:

  1. “On Advocacy & Preservation” (Yorklands Green Hub, Nature Guelph Wildflower Society, Pollination Guelph, University of Guelph Sustainability Office), and;
  2. “On Plants, Resilience, and Craft” (Christina Kingsbury, Guelph Outdoor School, Jenna Kessler).

In these sessions, project themes will be discussed with the community, while providing practical advice regarding environmental stewardship and advocacy. Creative ways in which residents can observe and sustainably use plant species in their local neighbourhoods will also be discussed.

Artist Talk

In conjunction with Culture Days, September 24 to October 24, 2021, the artist will present a virtual artist talk.

Partners and collaborators

  • Brooke Fry from The Guelph Outdoor School will liaise with the students at the Outdoor School and will also be a part of the “On plants, resilience, and craft” Q&A/Interview session. Brooke will bring great context for younger generations listening in.
  • Jenna Kessler is a local illustrator, farmer, musician, and activist. Jenna will create botanical illustrations of local dye plants found during the residency. These will be used within the Dye Plants in Curious Spaces online archive, and as signage for the Self-guided plant walks.
  • Zhyfhs Millicent of Planting Radiance is a local medicinal plant specialist who ran a series of socially distanced and live streamed plant walks in the summer of 2020. Zhyfphs will help lead the self-guided plant walks during this residency.
  • Christina Kingsbury is a multidisciplinary artist who investigates place, care, and ecology through quilting and gardening. Her project ReMediate (2014-Ongoing) is permanently installed in the Eastview Pollinator Park, and she will be invited to speak at the Q&A/Interview Session “On plants, resilience, and craft”.
  • Pollination Guelph is dedicated to the preservation of habitats to aid in the survival of essential pollinator species in Guelph. The artist will be collaborating with them to learn more about the importance of the dye plants, and how to preserve these species. They will also contribute to the Q&A/Interview Session “On advocacy & preservation”.
  • Natalie Vasilivetsky is the Environmental Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Guelph Sustainability office. She is an existing collaborator and friend of the artist who will help connect with folks at the University who have relevant knowledge to share. She will also select a representative to contribute to the Q&A/Interview Session “On advocacy & preservation”. Her connection to the student body at the University as the Sustainability Coordinator and radio host at CFRU Radio will aid in spreading awareness and promotion to the student demographic.
  • Yorklands Green Hub has been advocating to transform the former Guelph Corrections Centre into a public domain space offering educational and research opportunities for our community. They will contribute to the Q&A/Interview Session “On advocacy & preservation”.
  • Nature Guelph’s Wildflower Society offers native plant-themed programming. Their counsel and knowledge will be instrumental in working with wild spaces in Guelph. Judy Brisson (President of the society) will also contribute to the Q&A/Interview Session “On advocacy & preservation”.

Ultimately, this residency will use the metaphor of plants’ resilience as a means to encourage the community as we overcome a pandemic, reconnect, and re-imagine more harmonious lives together with the natural world. It will foster meaningful interactions with spaces that are less cared for, expanding perspectives of what wild space is and what interacting with nature looks like. Community events and installations will provide a space for residents to reflect on their coexistence with natural spaces here in Guelph.

The artist would like to acknowledge that this Botanical Reclamation project is also supported by the Guelph Arts Council through their Jane Graham Memorial award, of which Anita was a recipient for 2020.

About Anita Cazzola

Anita Cazzola
Anita Cazzola is a textile and installation artist from Guelph. She completed her bachelor of fine arts at OCAD University in 2018, where she studied Sculpture and Installation and minored in Material Arts and Design with a focus in Textiles. Anita has exhibited her works within Ontario in solo and group exhibitions including Abbozzo Gallery, Toronto; 10C, Guelph; and Propeller Gallery, Toronto. She attended an artist residency at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (Deer Isle, Maine) in August 2019 and is also an accomplished musician (The Lifers, Annie Sumi, Samson Wrote).

About the Artist in Residence program

The Artist in Residence program is offered by the City of Guelph to broaden the community’s experience of the arts. The annual program invites artists to engage with the public and showcase their creative practices while enlivening public spaces.

Program goals

  • creatively animate public space(s) – indoor, outdoor and online
  • provide opportunities for artists to engage virtually with the public to showcase their creative practices
  • broaden the community’s experience of the arts
  • contribute to placemaking and civic pride

The City of Guelph thanks all applicants who applied, including the 2021 Shortlisted Artists:

  • Curtis Walker
  • Michael James Castledine

For more information

Jen Rafter, Cultural Program and Event Coordinator
Culture and Recreation, Public Services
519-822-1260 extension 2629
[email protected]