Nature | Nature Issue 2017

A Community of Flowers

The Sunflower Project teaches “beauty, purpose, and art” one mammoth sunflower at a time

Thea Michele Smith

A sunflower begins as a seed. It is a compact, quickly forgotten speck resting in the palm of a hand. But let that seed drop into soil and provide it with water, and it will shed its coating and sprout a stem, leaves, and eventually, flower. For Kathy Fitzgerald and Rita Alvarez, this is how their organization, the Sunflower Project, began: from a small idea and a big passion.

Stage & Screen

Unapologetically Doing It

Pilsen-set web series “Brown Girls” premieres at the Chicago Art Department

Lisa Mishra performs at the launch party for Brown Girls, a new web series focusing on friendship between women of color. (Thea Smith)

Last Wednesday, a tall, wide-smiling usher opened the door, bringing me into the Chicago Art Department’s musky, glowing warmth. Nothing—the art, the lights, or the makeshift bar bustling with customers—was quite as compelling as the noise. It was loud. Not in an interruptive way, but I could hear laughter from across the room, and see and feel it bouncing from one group of people to the next. The tall ceiling, strung back and forth with yellow lights, only helped matters along, allowing notes of R&B music to fill the air. Couples’ heads were bent down, ears inches from mouths, while friends howled excited greetings at every new face that walked through the door. Hugs were given without discretion, and kisses planted in abundance.