Two Great Locations, One Organization

Places for the Spirit
Traditional African American Gardens
An exhibit of photographs by Vaughn Sills

January 18–March 10, 2013
Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Free admission; open daily 10 am-4:30 pm; Wednesday until 8 pm
Two free public lectures by Vaughn Sills, Jan. 29. See below to sign up.

Experience an exhibit of black-and-white fine-art photographs of African American folk gardens and their creators. Author Vaughn Sills, an associate professor of photography at Simmons College in Boston, traveled throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in search of these evocative gardens, and her photographs capture a vanishing element of the American landscape.

Vaughn Sills writes: “In my search for gardens I drove through small towns and cities and along country roads, stopping when I saw a certain kind of beauty. As I look at my photographs now and try to define what compelled me, I see a sense of both order and mystery, with a visual and soul-satisfying contrast between open space and dense arrangements of plant life. In many of the gardens I was drawn to the myriad objects placed to reflect light, to create structure, to delight and, it seemed, to entertain. I soon learned that all of this beauty was far more than entertainment, for beyond that there was meaning of the greatest import.

“These gardens hold a place for spirits: the gardeners provide the means to communicate with ancestors, fend off harm, and offer security to those who enter.”

Free public lectures by the author: All invited to “The Roots of Trust” a free public lecture at Matthaei Botanical Gardens by Vaughn Sills on Jan. 29. The author will discuss the importance of establishing trust with the creators of the gardens in her photographs. Limited seating available; reserve your place today.


A part of the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts winter 2013 “Understanding Race” Theme Semester.

Above: Pearl Fryer’s Garden, Bishopville, N.C.  Right: Vaughn Sills.


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