Sensory garden at Maroondah Festival has joy at its heart

With the smell of lavender, the sound of rustling leaves and the sight of colourful ‘snuggle’ pods, the Sensory Garden at this year’s Maroondah Festival will provide a quiet, shady spot for families to enjoy some respite from the festival action.

The James N Stevens Memorial Lawn (outside Croydon Library) will be transformed into a beautiful ‘Sense of Self – sensory garden’ dotted with scented plants and featuring a colourful hand-crafted space made from up-cycled materials, including crocheted fabrics and yarn.

It’s the perfect place for anyone suffering from sensory overload to just relax and regroup.

Curated specifically for the festival by visual artist Sara Catena, the sensory garden focuses on the senses of touch, sight, hearing and smell.

Sara says the garden allows visitors to explore their senses in a safe and stimulating environment.

While primarily designed for children on the Autism Spectrum and for families with special needs, the experiential garden is an inclusive sensory space for people of all ages and abilities.

“The sensory garden is a safe space that people can enjoy or come to recharge within the larger festival environment, which can sometimes be overwhelming,” Sara explains.

“I find this not only thrilling to make and curate, I absolutely love witnessing the powerful and positive impact on visitors,” Sara says of creating her sensory art installations.

From sensory puddles, a water sound tree and orange-scented tactile nest pods filled with woollen pom poms, to a three-metre tall tee pee created as a ‘quiet cave’ equipped with black light torches, the immersive space stimulates and encourages play through sound, smell and movement.

The artist has also incorporated a ‘rainbow xylophone section’ that uses a variety of softer batons to make “lovely muted sounds”.

Sara’s vibrant and highly expressive soft sculptures have evolved as a natural progression from her richly painted canvasses where she uses vivid colour, narrative qualities and hand-stitched elements to draw the viewer into her work.

‘Lovebirds’ are a familiar motif with Sara’s canvas work and in the nest sculptures they have found a three-dimensional expression.

It was during a visit to Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest that she was inspired to create her own version of the nest, which she affectionately calls her ‘snuggle pods’.

“The nest concept crystallised when visiting my sister in the Daintree where I was inspired by the nest of the Yellow-bellied Sunbird who I watched gather strips of bark and fibre to create her tear-drop shaped nest that seemed to hang poetically in mid-air,” she explains.

Just like the Sunbird, Sara creates each ‘nest’ sculpture entirely by hand. She uses her intrinsic love and understanding of hand stitching to weave an unexpected mix of threads, textile scraps, discarded and ‘found’ elements into each piece.

“It is deeply satisfying and personally significant to repurpose found objects, which on their own are ugly and unwanted litter, into beautiful and symbolic works of art. Each nest is individually created with colour infused with love and joy.”

Sara hopes festival-goers looking for a quiet escape will make the most of her snuggle pods, inviting people to climb in and dream, or even snooze if they wish.

For more on this year’s festival, including a full program of events, visit Maroondah Festival 2019 or phone 1300 88 22 33.

Thank you to our event sponsors

EastLink, Swinburne, Brighter with natural gas, Canterbury Caravans, MatchWorks, Mercedes-Benz Ringwood and Noel Jones, along with our support sponsors: Denso, Bank of Melbourne and 89.9 Light FM

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