A Firsthand Experience With War Inspired This Artist to Design a Peace Garden

The Peace Garden art project at Woodwynn Farms in Central Saanich, B.C., helped artist Deryk Houston come to terms with his experiences in Baghdad.

1 / 2
Deryk Houston, designer of the Woodwynn Peace Garden
Photo: Courtesy Deryk Houston

The Real Story Behind the Woodwynn Peace Garden

I am a Canadian artist residing in Victoria. My work focuses on peace. War fascinates and saddens me because, as history has shown us, it is easy to make a ghost. My art helps me find answers, or at least cope with some of the disturbing realities of the modern day.

My trips into Baghdad in support of peace caused enormous stress on my family and me. It took a few years before I was able to come to terms with that whole experience and figure out how to proceed as an artist. I channeled my energy into creating natural art installations that evoked a sense of peace in myself and others. I set up my first project in a large hayfield, using a simple mother and child motif; afterwards, a local farmer baled the hay I had used and stored it away for his horses. I later did two similar, small-scale works, one in Scotland and the other in Baghdad. I wanted to create something more permanent, however, and so I created the Peace Sanctuary image up in Hudson’s Hope. It can’t be seen very well on the ground these days, because the locals on their Quads just loved riding over the mounds. I don’t mind that at all, because I see my work as being like a Buddha board, where you paint on silk with water and the artwork evaporates. The sanctuary image still shows up well from the air and on Google maps though.

2 / 2
Woodwynn Peace Garden
Photo: Deryk Houston

Designing the Woodwynn Peace Garden

For more than 50 years now, I’ve felt blessed to be able to express myself through my art. In the fall of 2013, I was encouraged to spearhead the creation of a Peace Garden art project at Woodwynn Farms in Central Saanich, B.C. After everything we had been through, it was such a gift to work closely with my wife, Elizabeth Wellburn, a talented artist in her own right, and also to collaborate with the farms’ director to create a therapeutic space where people can enjoy time to themselves with nature and crops. It was and still is a labour of love.

When visiting the Woodwynn Peace Garden, you enter through a hand-carved door, then follow a winding path past kiwi trees, berry bushes and sculptures. Further along, the trail leads into a quiet stretch called Apple Tree Lane. When you reach a trellis adorned with driftwood fish hanging above, you are almost at the entrance to the Garden’s labyrinth, which is packed with edible sage and surrounded by a thick outer ring of purple lavender. You can’t get lost in this labyrinth, but you might find some inner peace by simply following the path.

Check out more places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.

Originally Published in Our Canada

Newsletter Unit