Wylde Center and Chosewood Arts Complex are inviting you to join us for an evening that celebrates the life and art of Sally Wylde. The event is open to the public and free to attend.
For the first time, Sally Wylde’s art spanning her career from 1993-2010 will be on display and available for purchase.
All art sale proceeds benefit Wylde Center.
Sally Wylde – Artist, Environmentalist, Activist, Educator
When Sally Wylde moved to the Oakhurst community of Decatur from rural Massachusetts in 1993, she observed a troubling phenomenon taking root, as an urban community became increasingly separated from the natural world. Every afternoon, children leaving the nearby elementary school cut through the yard of Sally’s neighbor, Mrs. Louise Jackson, and trampled her beloved garden.
Instead of involving the police, Sally and Mrs. Jackson partnered with a group of neighbors to invite the children to become caretakers of the garden. Working together, they restored Mrs. Jackson’s garden and added a beautiful, hand-painted fence. The children watched with delight and amazement as their plantings flourished and something ordinary turned into something special — a process they had never noticed or understood before. The group went on to create a garden in the median strip of the street in front of Mrs. Jackson’s house. They took tremendous pride in their work, which was honored at a ceremony with the city’s mayor, who presented each child with a certificate of appreciation.
The following year, Sally and her husband, Britt Dean, acquired a nearby, undeveloped half-acre lot that was at risk for development in the rapidly gentrifying Oakhurst. Thus the Oakhurst Community Garden Project was born. As the Garden matured into an established grassroots nonprofit organization with Sally at its helm, the lot transformed into an urban oasis with vegetable and floral plots, a pond, art installations, beehives, animals, and restored native habitats. As her vision for a place of “secret wild spaces for children” and hands-on environmental education became reality, Sally inspired countless neighbors of all ages to become better caretakers of the earth, of one another, and of themselves.
Sally Wylde retired as executive director of the Oakhurst Community Garden in 2005. But “retirement” is not really the word. She returned to her first calling, as an artist. She began painting again, and soon she had works on display in galleries around town. The year following her retirement, she orchestrated a communitywide art project, bringing together an army of artists who created giant puppets in a spectacular array of colors, shapes, and sizes to march in Decatur’s annual Earth Day parade. Participants and bystanders alike bore witness to the powerful way that art and nature are linked as sources of beauty and nourishment.
Sally also began exploring other creative outlets. She began writing. She took piano lessons. She became involved in an improvisational theater group. She volunteered with Decatur’s Farm to School initiative, bringing to that endeavor her passion for empowering children to take charge of their own health and connecting it to the health of the planet. She also volunteered with the Global Village School, helping bring a powerful arts education experience to this Montessori-based educational program for teenaged girls whose formal education has been interrupted by war and refugee camp experiences.
Nor did Sally “retire” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She met the challenge with her characteristic courage and creativity. One response was “The Lump Journey,” a performance art piece about her experience co-created with a group of close women friends and fellow artists. Even through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, more surgery, and ultimately the aggressive spread of the cancer throughout her body, Sally Wylde continued to pursue love, life, and beauty in the natural world as vigorously as ever. As her husband, Britt, wrote in her last days, she is “still trying to squeeze as much as she can from every day.”
Sally, who completed a master of fine arts in painting from Tufts University and a master of theological studies from Candler School of Theology of Emory University also served on the Decatur Greenspace Commission and was a member of the Decatur Rotary Club. She was honored in 1998 as a Decatur Hometown Hero.