This project came completely out of the blue. It was the kind of thing my gut told me to immediately say yes to without even thinking about how we could make it. It was a gift I tear up about every time I think about it.
Back in February, my grandfather, Ed Hanna, who we called Gid (Gido means grandfather in Arabic) passed away at his home in Michigan. He lived a long, beautiful life and passed on in a room surrounded by most of his family. If I could hope for anything for myself, that's how I hope to move on too.
My memories of going to his house are mostly by scent from when I was young. The smell of hot summer rain on the concrete, rose bushes at the side of the house, the smell of gasoline and grass in the garage, the musty smell of metal and tools in the basement and mostly the scent of mint when you walk into the backyard. My Syrian family cooked with mint often and it was always growing wildly outside the house. I remember opening the backdoor as the minty aroma wafted through the wind. In fact, mint is sentimental to me because of this, we planted a ton of it in our backyard when we bought our house, hoping for it to take over the landscape just so I could smell it in the air.
The day I returned home from Gid's funeral, I got the most random email in my inbox asking asking me if I could build a wall of mint in the airport for Mint Julep Month. Seriously? What? I stared at the email for a minute. First of all, what a random thing to ask someone to make. I guess here in Kentucky, anything bourbon or mint julep related isn't so weird, but I did think the request was odd. We needed to build a greenery wall to last six weeks at the airport? How? I hadn't done any installations aside from weddings in a while. I had turned down mostly anything other than wedding related projects for years. They could have asked anyone but for whatever reason they had asked me. I knew this project was meant for me to do and the timing of the request was a clear sign that I needed to do it.
It took months of me testing out different wants to construct this thing. The original request and inspiration photos were of cut pieces of mint with other greeneries stuck into floral foam (which I hate using) but this wouldn't have worked anyway. Mint has a very soft stem, so once you cut it it wilts within hours. The amount of replacing pieces of greenery and floral foam would have been never ending. After doing a ton of research, I determined I needed to build it with full mint plants as if it were a living wall. And this meant we'd need to maintain and water it multiple times a week, which I wasn't that excited about, BUT it worked! We went two-three times a week watering, pruning and loving on our living installation. It changed every day, growing towards the sun and by the end of the six weeks it was devastating to take down. I spread the plants all over the city, with Please & Thank You and El Mundo taking most of it for their summer drinks. Some of it landed at the Habitat for Humanity raised beds. I planted some at my house, some at the studio and dispersed to other friends and family.
Ok, so here's the best part. Not only did the money from the mint wall help fund our trip to Europe in April, specifically our mini excursion to Bucharest, but it allowed my mom, a person who had always wanted to work at the airport, to have a behind the scenes tour of the grounds after we finished install. The sweetest gift from her father. At least that's how I looked at it.
As a designer of installations, both temporary and permanent, I am constantly faced with 'how in the heck am I going to make this?!' after the idea comes out of my mouth. This project was definitely one of those and I let it teach me as we went. Nothing is impossible, it only takes a minute to figure it out.
Creating this piece of art was as delightful to me as it was to all the people who viewed it. It went up the week of Spring Break here in Louisville and I think every person I know in this city went through the airport and saw it that week. The amount of Instagram tags, texts and convos I had with friends about it blew my mind. It was all over the internet and they even interviewed us on the news! The conversations we started with airport passengers while we were there for our weekly maintenance were so fun! Many people walked up to it, touched it (because they couldn't believe it was real!) and told me it reminded them of their parents or grandparent's garden, which I loved to hear. Scent is so sentimental to us all!
I hope to do more things like this in the future. If you ever have a crazy idea like this, throw it at me!