Northwest Native Plant Garden gets an art gallery

sami art at native garden

Point Defiance Park display showcases works of Science and Math Institute students

A partnership between the Tacoma Garden Club and Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute (SAMI) has yielded a temporary exhibit of imagery that enhances the Northwest Native Plant Garden in Point Defiance Park.

Eleven colorful 16-by-16-inch wooden panels now hang from the fence surrounding the small native plant garden, one of eight separate gardens nestled within the park. The paintings represent the culmination of a semester-long collaboration between the Tacoma Garden Club, which established and nurtures the native plant garden, and SAMI, a high school based in the park.

Betsy Wheeler, the Tacoma Garden Club member who spearheaded the effort, said the club aims to encourage stewardship and foster appreciation for the garden among SAMI students.

Together, the paintings capture a sampling of what might be encountered in the garden in early summer, including a honey bee, wild strawberries, an azalea, a lily, an iris, forget-me-not, foxglove, a Nootka rose, mock orange and bunchberry.

The installation is not designed to be permanent and may grace the garden for up to six months. Students created the paintings during a weeklong, end-of-year class taught by SAMI art teacher and muralist Mary Mann and her colleague Fisher Woodward. As part of the class, called Art in the Park, students explored the park’s history. They also painted a 16-by-8-foot mural to be installed behind Don’s Ruston Market and Deli, a short walk from the park. Gray Lumber Co. cut and donated the panels.

For the color, students applied artist acrylics mixed with exterior latex paints, a combination Mann uses for her own murals. To preserve the work, Mann applied a protective coating. The images are based on photographs by Scott Haydon, she said. Gray Lumber Co. cut and donated the panels.

Phedra Redifer, Metro Parks supervisor of rentals, permits and visitor services, also serves as liaison to SAMI. She was impressed with the paintings. “They are beautiful,” she said. “It is another testament to the power of the partnership and the opportunity to engage SAMI students on a deeper level within the park.”


Michael Thompson, Public Information Officer, (253) 305-1092;

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