The art of hands-on learning
White Violet Center intern Mallory Uchalik spent a lot of time outside growing up.
A native of Royal Oak, Michigan, Mallory has a dual degree from the University of Michigan in art and design and environmental studies, with a specialization in food systems.
Her introduction to WVC and the Sisters of Providence began with a small amount of confusion. After a work day and lunch with the sisters, it became clear that WVC is only one small part of what the Sisters of Providence do.
“I wasn’t sure, at first, if all the sisters were out gardening every day, like if they ran it all, but now I see it’s in different parts … it’s super cool,” Mallory said.
One of the things she appreciates most of WVC and the Sisters of Providence is how everyone contributes their personal talents or skills toward a common goal.
“All of the sisters and staff here are so devoted to sustainability and seem genuinely excited to be doing what they are doing every day.”
Mallory is quite talented herself. She began creating oil paintings in high school for family and friends, working from photographs. Now she is teaching herself how to make illustrations with pen and ink and would like to someday participate in a botanical illustration program.
She has worked as a farm assistant at the University’s Biological Station and as a horticulturist at the Ann Arbor Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, where she performed routine care and upkeep for the trees.
Mallory also assisted with a peony preservation project at the arboretum, packaging cuttings to be sent to growers across the country. During the 2015 summer she interned for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative.
“I really enjoyed how educational the experience was … I’ve worked on farms before, but nothing has ever been quite this immersive. I feel like I’ve been surrounded by more knowledge and more dirt than I have in a long while,” she said.
Mallory has bloomed in the fiber art program. She was also excited to learn more about farming from a business perspective during her internship.
“I think it’s definitely easy to become disconnected from where your ‘things’ come from, and it’s been really awesome to watch the process from production to consumption, both with the alpaca fiber and the produce,” she said.
Mallory has one older sister, who performs stand-up comedy in Detroit. She also has two cats that she adores.
“I’m excited to go back home and take all this new information to start growing some of my own food, maybe one day even an alpaca or two, and share just how doable it is with family and friends.”