Have you ever asked a child what they think? Odds are you will get an honest answer! Ask area youth is exactly what Betsy Hosp did when Jasmine Hill Gardens was setting a vision for its future. “The smallest, kindest action makes a difference” said one child, and another “We can treat the planet the way we would like to be treated.” This kind of inspiration has built the foundation for the new programming at Jasmine Hill where art and nature intersect for peace and the planet.

On March 6th and 7th, Jasmine Hill is hosting the Naturally Artful Festival to build community, and to allow visitors to experience the arts and connect with nature. There will be hands on art activities, and a chance to dig in the dirt, along with presentations by artists including Winfred Hawkins and a collaborative painting with India Wilson. There will be art on exhibit, painters at work in the garden, and live poetry writing. Calliope Pettis, a singer, song writer and multi instrumentalist, is offering music and movement in the garden along with Steve Stoddard, an outdoor enthusiast, activist and educator. Steve will also share stories and photos/videos of outdoor adventures, climbing, tiny home living, plastic free lifestyle and more.

A panel discussion exploring empathy as a tool for understanding and supporting ourselves, others and the planet will be led by a multi-talented group of leaders from Maxwell Air Force Base including Jonathan Sawtelle, Tanya Safstrom, Eric Safstrom and Dan Phillips along with Betsy Hosp, a planet activist, educator and writer. Jasmine Hill’s “Healing Well” officially opens as festivities begin on Saturday March 7th. This space allows people to write down things they wish to release, and the paper they place in the well will become compost that will nourish future growth in the garden. Nature is healing, and at Jasmine Hill people are invited to leave behind a past that we do not want to repeat, and to focus on individual actions that can make our world a better place.

Area students will be treated to sessions with storyteller and illustrator, Lynne Cherry, on Friday March 6th. The student program includes hands on art and nature activities, and music. As founder of Young Voices for the Planet, Cherry says “The natural world is just precious, and all of us need to be doing something to protect it.” Cherry is known for over 30 children’s books including “The Great Kapok Tree,” “How the Groundhog’s Garden Grew,” and “Flute’s Journey.” Films by Cherry will be running during the festival, and she will be doing a book signing on Saturday March 7th. Area performer, Jonathan Avant, will be reading Cherry’s book, “The Great Kapok Tree,” backed up by his talented jazz band.

Closing out the Naturally Artful Festival will be Avant’s jazz music from each season including “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess and a springtime song performed by returning multi-dimensional, award-winning artist, Philip Stoddard, of the Collaborative Arts Ensemble. The words of area youth who were interviewed in the fall during Jasmine Hill’s re-imagining will be featured in the final piece, “What a Wonderful World.”

Kicking off the weekend festivities on Friday March 6th at 7:30 p.m. will be an interactive theatre experience to explore issues related to our natural world in a way to transform our reality and envision a future in which we all play a role in caring for the earth. Juilliard trained, Philip Stoddard will be supporting the talented local, Elizabeth Woodson, who developed this idea for Naturally Artful and has facilitated successful experiences with this approach at a homeless shelter in New Haven, Connecticut. This theatre technique, called Theatre of the Oppressed, was designed by Augusto Boal as a means of promoting social and political change, and is a perfect way to use a performing art form to invite conversations about the role each of us can play in the future of our planet.

It is the aim of Jasmine Hill to acknowledge the words of our youth, and to inspire people to care for this beautiful earth of ours in actionable and sustainable ways. Mark your calendar to experience the arts and celebrate nature at Jasmine Hill on March 6th and 7th. Festival visitors can enjoy the sculpture and world’s only replica of the Temple of Hera, savor the spring flowers, and bring a picnic, or purchase food in the 1830’s cottage that will be open for touring. Naturally Artful is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts along with a team of volunteers. Tickets are $10 per day or $15 for the weekend with student tickets at $8 and $12, respectively. Sunshine and rain make the garden grow, so come dressed for the day! Children under 6 are free. For more information, and to get involved as a volunteer, visit www.jasminehill.org.