Diane Davis started Artful Arrangements in 2007, not as the non-profit it is today, but as a business that created, sold and delivered living plant arrangements. She advertised the business through the Sonoma County Farm Trails and realized after some time that she received even more pleasure and satisfaction from seeing parents plant flowers with children, than making money from creating the arrangements. She realized the necessity of giving parents in today’s busy, hectic lifestyle a means for connecting with their children in an easy, affordable way. And so, in 2016, she incorporated Artful Arrangements as a 501(c)(3) non-profit with “the mission of developing ways for parents and children to spend a little quality time together – for much needed joy and connection – that are affordable, convenient, fast and fun.”
“The interaction with the community and particularly with parents who helped their children plant a plant arrangement, just took over,” says Davis. “At one point I realized that there was no money in it. It’s not a profit-making venture. So we incorporated and developed our real purpose.”
Davis has a special understanding and empathy for parents’ struggles since she herself was a single mother, struggling to get off welfare many years ago. Office jobs didn’t pay enough to get her out of that situation so she started as a lineman for the phone company, worked herself up to being a journeyman electrician and over the course of her career held jobs ranging from truck driver to licensed general contractor.
“I bought my first home in 1984 back when a lot of women weren’t buying their own homes,” says Davis. “I’ve been a trailblazer my whole life.”
Davis now works as the volunteer Executive Director and has a team of four other board of directors to help make decisions and oversee the implementation of the organization’s mission.
Artful Arrangements accomplishes its mission in a number of ways. It holds various events at the 1915 working homestead in Penngrove such as a free drop-in every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that includes the open art studio, gift shop and plant-a-plant activity. They also host four free annual events on the property, including “Down Home Day” in the spring which includes free guided tours of the property, contests and activities for families, “Giving Thanks at the Gardens” every Sunday before Thanksgiving and two open house weekends in the spring and fall.
The organization also offers a “treasured time pick-up activity program” for free at local schools, daycares and after school programs, where parents can help their child plant-a-plant when they come to pick them up. Not only is it a fun and easy way for parents to connect with their children at the end of the day, but it also promotes the child taking on the responsibility of caring for the plant at home. Artful Arrangements takes a picture of the parent and child together with the finished product, which they send to the family as a memorable keepsake of their time spent together.
Davis also developed a “parallel family play booth” that she offers for free at festivals and public family events, such as the Cotati Kid’s Day, the Art and Garden Festival, Petaluma’s Butter and Eggs Day and the Cotati Christmas Tree lighting. In the booth she sets up tables and chairs and coloring supplies to give families a respite from the event where they can spend some quality time together and relax.
“I’m there with parallel family play for any families that want to sit for a while and just color together with their children,” says Davis. “Then they’re entered into a photo contest and the winner of the photo contest gets a free guided tour.”
Besides the free events, Artful Arrangements also offers several low-cost activities and programs, including two-hour team activities at the homestead, tours and planting experiences for families, as well as group field trips to learn about soil erosion and farm animals. Some of the team offerings include planting and arranging activities, poetry writing, rock painting, and card making. All are geared towards parents, or grandparents, with children.
“I love doing this – it comes from the heart,” says Davis. “I’m trying to find the parents who have some time available to do little, unique things that don’t cost an arm and a leg.”