Botanical Garden shows worms are not just fish bait

By The TimesLedger

“This Dirt Museum: the Ladies’ Room,” an interactive installation by environmental performance artist Naomi Dagen Bloom with sculpture by Barbara Andrus, opens Saturday, Oct. 6, and remains on view for three weekends m the Plant Shop at Queens Botanical Garden through Oct. 21.

Focusing on red wiggler worms as an organic waste management tool for the 21st century, the exhibit underscores the need for New Yorkers to engage m recycling household waste. Originally inspired by the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill, the exhibit takes on new meaning with the recent World Trade Center tragedy and the devastation of lower Manhattan.

Opening Day activities, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. , include performances by Bloom and “Worm Woman” Mary Appelhof, author of the vermicomposting bible, “Worms Eat My Garbage.”

Visitors will be urged to consider why they should make kitchen-composting part of, and as routine as, after-meal clean-up. Bloom shows and describes her “Worm-Ware” — decorated biodegradable containers for indoor worm habitats. Many different types of composts will be on display, and several people will describe how they’ve become compost masters.

Sculpture fashioned from twigs and branches by artist Barbara Andrus complements the series.

The installation also includes a display of more than 100 knitted, felted, and crocheted worms sent in from women, and a few men, from across the United States, Canada, and Europe in response to Bloom’s call to “Knit One Red Wiggler Worm. It’s Bloom’s way of celebrating the remarkable earthworm species, Eiseniafetida, a creature that has been successfully used in kitchens around the world to recycle food scraps into rich compost.

“This Dirt Museum” loosely documents how a personal quest for answers spawned efforts to get New Yorkers — faced with the imminent closing of Fresh Kills, the world’s largest landfill — to assume responsibility for recycling their own organic household waste. Bloom threw her first Worm-Ware party in Queens at the Queens Botanical Garden in July 2000. The event marked the beginning of a successful partnership with the Queens Greening Compost Project and compost director Patty Kleinberg. What evolved from there has been artistically captured and designed to provoke others to compost.

Bloom has a long history of applying art to the public interest. In the 1970s, she wrote and produced “Between a Woman and her Doctor,” a video plus a series of participatory workshops. In the 1980s, she created and toured the United States with “Empowering Women,” a multi-media workshop.

The October 6 opening includes presentations by Appelhof and Bloom, and a lecture by Venetia Lannon of the New York City Department of Sanitation, which will be presented in English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Hindi.

For families with children ages 3 and up, two “Just for Kids!” programs will be offered. “Essie's Great Adventure,” a musical puppet show featuring the travels of a young worm written by QBG compost project coordinator Lois Shuman and performed by the Red Wiggler Players, will be presented at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Located at 43-50 Main Street in Flushing, the Queens Botanical Garden is easily accessible by car, train, bus, and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park trolley (weekends only). Parking is available in the Garden's lot on Dahlia Avenue. Admission is free. For more information and complete travel directions, call 718- 886-3800 or visit www.queensbotanicalorg.

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