• Caitlin Gomez

Vertical Garden Hangs on the East Side

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

The brains behind the “Hearts of the East Side” campaign, Selena Souders, has deeply planted roots in Austin and the east side.

“I am a native Austinite and moved to the east side when I was in college while studying botany at UT” said Souders. “I fell in love with the neighborhood, people, culture, which was all influential in how I built my career.”

Following her studies, Souders continued to pursue her passion and Big Red Sun studio was born. Founded in the east side in 1994, Big Red Sun is a design build studio that creates landscape and garden masterpieces.

“There is great soil over here and there are things on the east side that grow from the riverbed soil that does not grow in other parts of Austin,” Souders explained.

As a result of Souders’ deep connection to the area, and reputation on the east side as a business owner and an artist, the East Cesar Chavez District and Souly Austin board selected her to act as curator for the “Hearts of the East Side” campaign.

“With some funding from the city, we got a group of 10 artists together who also have been invested in the east side for many years,” said Souders. “I thought they would be the most invested to initiate the project with a lot of ‘heart’.”

Souders participated in the project as well, creating her own heart artwork installation that hangs at 1102 E César Chávez St, former location of Big Red Sun and current event space. Her heart is a vertical garden consisting of colorful plants and greenery.

For her heart art piece, Souders strived to create a conversation piece that people would take time to stop and look at, take a picture with, and enjoy.

“I felt the heart would be really special on Cesar Chavez as far as people interacting,” she said.

Vertical Garden stems from her experience with plants, a common medium Big Red Sun works with, and promoting growth and healing.

“I wanted to create something that felt alive and gave people the idea that they can garden and create vertical pieces that advance their home and landscape,” Souders noted. “Vertical gardens can be created in almost any space that you have in your home. We just wanted to remind people through our heart that that was something you, too, can do.”

Following the reveal of the project last February, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic stalled any progress to move forward through with expansion the project.

“As time progresses, I want to add more to our hearts – landscaping and lighting – that’s kind of the next stage,” said Souders, outlining her goals and aspirations for the future of the project.

Souders is eager to find sponsorships for each heart and continue to progress the project. Ultimately, the goal is to leave a long-lasting impression, a legacy project of sorts on the east side.

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