“Minnie Evans was the gatekeeper of Wilmington’s historic Airlie Gardens from 1949 to 1974, and is considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Evans’s take on color, mysticism, and symmetry made her garden-infused art unique. ‘It was therefore an inspired decision,’ Airlie Gardens Guild member Fred Wharton writes, ‘to create the Minnie Evans Memorial Sculpture Garden—a garden within the garden, in the very place where she worked as a gatekeeper, where she experienced her visions, and where she created her art.’
“Local Wilmington artists got together after Minnie’s death to create this – a seventeen-foot-high, seven-sided chapel sculpted from thousands of glass bottles, cement, and metal armature designed by artist Virginia Wright-Frierson. To create a fitting memorial inspired the symbolism and elaborate designs found in Evans’s work, Wright-Frierson assembled a team of North Carolinians to interpret the artist’s themes in various media. The Bottle Chapel Artists were Virginia Wright-Frierson, Designer & Lead Artist; Karen Crouch, Dumay Gorham, Brooks Koff, Hiroshi Sueyoshi, Barbara Sullivan, Tejuola Turner, Michael van Hout.”
-Fred Wharton, author of The Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, which can be purchased in the Gift Shop
The life and work of visionary artist Minnie Evans, born in Long Creek, North Carolina (outside of Wilmington) in 1892 was commemorated with the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden and Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, dedicated in 2004. In this video, Wilmington painter and illustrator Virginia Wright-Frierson, who designed the garden gives of tour that includes the contributions of Wilmington artists Hiroshi Sueyoshi, Dumay Gorham, Karen Crouch, Michael Van Hout and Brooks Koff whose works are seen throughout the garden.
If you’re not in a hurry, check out this 15-minute long video that shows the chapel being built.