Art Changes Lives

Teaching Articles - Essays to fuel your creative life

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Cameron watched the documentary A Man Named Pearl and was so inspired that he traveled to Pearl Fryar's topiary garden in South Carolina to talk to him in person. Read about how this amazing, self-taught artist influences an entire community with his work. Because his topiaries are shaped over years, his garden serves as a living journal.

Art Changes Lives

Art Changes Lives

by Cameron Brooks

A Man Named Pearl is aninspirational documentary about a self-taught topiary artist whose imaginationand creative tenacity have inspired and revitalized a depressed rural community
in South Carolina.

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Photo courtesy of Shadow Distribution.

Pearl Fryar grew up in a poor North Carolina sharecropper family during the mid 1900s. In 1976, he moved to Bishopville, South Carolina, where he worked 12-hour shifts in a can factory for 36 years. His life's work began as a collection of discarded shrubs and trees from a local wholesale nursery. These same "junk plants," as he calls them, now lure visitors to Bishopville from around the globe.

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Photo Courtesy of Shadow Distribution

I walked through Pearl Fryar's three-acre opus of living sculpture and it was like cloud-watching. Rejuvenated hedges become verdant, abstract works of organic line, shape, form and texture. Fryar's imagination permeates the community, causing friends, neighbors, and colleagues to tap into and share their own creativity. Throughout the town, streets and yards are adorned with topiary inspired by Pearl's work.

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Cameron and Pearl in Pearl's garden

Fryar reaches out to children of all ages. I listened as he spoke to a group of garden visitors, encouraging them to focus their energy on personal artistic expression.As a public school teacher, I have seen firsthand how quickly an environment of high-stakes testing can squelch a child's individuality and expression. Recognizing and celebrating subtle and elusive creative moments among my students is a challenge, but as Pearl Fryar showed me, the long-term effects can be socially transformational.