Who Doesn’t Like a BBQ?–Scott and Sammi’s Story

Rebecca Lujan Loveless–POLIS Institute

Scott and Sammi, residents of The Palms Trailer Park in the Holden Heights Neighborhood of Orlando, care about their neighborhood.  When asked what they think would make The Palms a better place to live, they said, “A place where friends and family can gather to barbecue, socialize and have kids play safely.”

They believe that having this community space will bring people together to get to know one another, which will lead to more trust between neighbors and even diminish petty theft and fighting.

“When you know your neighbor and they know you’ve got their back, they’re less likely to pick a fight with you over stupid stuff,” Scott said.

And after all, who doesn’t like barbecue?

There is a grassy area at the front of the neighborhood between the Trailer One Community Center and the Palms Chapel that is not used or fenced in.  The area borders one of the busiest streets in Orlando.  Kids wait for the bus in the morning, playing on the sidewalk while 18-wheelers race by.  The space has dead shrubbery and is riddled with ant piles and weeds.

Scott sees this area not as the “eyesore” that it is, but as a blank canvas that, if treated properly (with the help of neighbors and other donors), could turn into a place where friendships are grown and ideas and dreams are shared.

Scott is a Master Welder and landscaping expert.  He spent time and energy creating a blueprint for a professional BBQ Pit, Smoker and Griddle.  He also plotted out the landscaping plans, soil grading and re-fencing that he says will be necessary to create a space that is peaceful, safely protected from the busy street and able to hold a vegetable and herb garden.

The project can be accomplished for less than $1000.  Scott and Sammi have already been going door to door, to neighbors, with hand-drawn fliers showcasing the plans, asking people to pitch in.  Scott has also called several companies to ask for donations of cement block, sand and equipment.

Throughout the week you will see Scott out in the space leading volunteers from the neighborhood.  The space is taking shape. Fencing has been installed, shrubs and vines and flowers are planted and being watered by elderly women and young kids in the neighborhood.  Scott is committed to seeing this project come to fruition.  Even before it is complete it is already doing what he hoped: neighbors are coming together with a spirit of solidarity, working hard together, sharing stories, meals and ideas.  This typically overlooked neighborhood is becoming a place of hope.  Thanks to Scott and Sammi…and of course a little bit of barbeque.

Gardening on Rooftops and the Radio

Okay, so we aren’t virtually gardening with radio waves as the title implies, but we are gardening on a rooftop here in Belltown and we were featured on a local radio station just yesterday. Here is a link to the radio show blog site where you can listen:

http://greenacreradio.blogspot.com/2010/04/blog-post.html …

As you can tell by listening to the program, it’s a really cool project that is actually putting feet to much of the hype floating around about “green” this-and-that–a conversation that seems to often happen more on the internet than in real neighborhoods. This project is a beautiful collaboration that I have only recently really stepped into. It started out with Sustainable Belltown (SB) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) working together to create more sustainable food gardening in Belltown while also helping the city develop a pilot project for rooftop systems to then hold up as a model to use throughout the city. Our project is a small scale retrofit, meaning that it is a small scale container system that can be added to most rooftops without overloading the structural capacity of the roof.

(This is not a full roof system, and can intuitively be applied on rooftops or balconies that are already supporting lots of people, tables, grills, etc. Obviously, if doing more, one should consult an engineer or the building’s architect to be sure about safety concerns.)

What the radio show does not make obvious, is that this would be completely impossible without the collaboration, active participation, and fiscal sponsorship of the management company and staff at the Centennial Apartment buildings. Multiple folks there have made this possible and they took a risk last year of believing that this was worth their effort and finances as a way to give back to their residents and the neighborhood. I have worked some in the past few weeks particularly with one of their staff members, a gentleman named Markham, who has been a huge force in making this happen.

The Centennial is a great example of a private business that has decided to expand their bottom line to include doing something great in the neighborhood, and guess what? When people come to check out apartments in their buildings and find out about the foodbank gardens, it is starting to become a contributing factor for people to want to rent from the building–what a great win-win for this company that has decided to help make the neighborhood a little more human and earth friendly!

So, I knew about the project when it was started up and the containers were managed by a couple of wonderful gardener/residents over at Centennial. Now that the project is underway in earnest, I am working through SB to track data and help develop a case study that SPU can use for future developments and recommend to existing building owners. Being a garden nerd, I am also helping set up a system of managing the beds, educating residents on gardening basics, and setting up the process of growing, community building, and food donation so that it will be successful for years to come (ambitious, I know).

Some of the benefits of the system include: reduced rainwater runoff, community involvement and connection between gardeners and residents, fresh local vegetables for the local foodbank (helping reduce the carbon footprint of a local non-profit), increasing awareness of place, generating excitement and inspiring other projects, bringing food production into the line-of- sight for city dwellers, educating first time gardeners about a) how easy it is for them to grow food and b) how long it takes, and difficult it can be to grow food, thus building respect for those who grow most of our food and making us a little more willing to pay equitable prices for the labor and produce of food grown well with respect of the earth and our bodies.

As you can see, I am excited about this project. It is something I did not start, and I hope I will not see end, yet I get to play a fun and helpful part in doing something that makes our neighborhood a little better to live in. In the process I have met some beautiful people, had some great conversations about how we can connect with our neighbors and understand ourselves as people living in a community together, and learned a lot about what it means to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, our neighbors, and the earth.

Peace, Daniel

*While finishing a masters of divinity degree from Mars Hill Graduate School, Belltowner Daniel Tidwell has been pursuing urban agriculture opportunities along with his wife, Jocelyn. Members of the Belltown P Patch and part of the Emmaus Road crowd, Daniel and Jocelyn have also become rooftop farmers. Within the last year, the Tidwells have seen how growing fresh produce with the intention to share has brought neighbors together. Check out this radio story from GREEN ACRE RADIO on KBCS, and listen to Daniel speak about rooftop farming and community development.

Urban Farm

Rev. Judy Van Dyke is the regional CFA coach working with 3Sixty in the East Core City neighborhood of Holland. This idea was born from a resident in the neighborhood and is catching on with neighbors. It is a snapshot in time of neighbors working together for common good!

Jeff, an organic farmer, has always been one of the leaders in the neighborhood around 3sixty (East Core City Holland MI). He shared his desire to have an urban farm with other neighbors and they began dreaming together about how they could make this happen.

They had a desire to focus on teaching kids farming, nutrition and neighborhood beautification. Excitement and participation grew as more people affirmed the idea. Over time Jeff and his neighborhood partners were granted permission to use an old church preschool playground to farm a “pilot plot” for the 2011 season.

The building will be turned into an educational center. They hope to utilize the gifts and talents of local neighbors to work the garden as neighborhood interns. Seeds of ideas are being sown and the soil is being prepared for the spring growing season.

Teusink Neighborhood Garden

A year ago Suzie Steen became a Community Connector through a coaching relationship with Good Samaritan Ministries and has begun to use ABCD principles through their community outreach at Park CRC.

A historic farm owner and member of Park Church donated a half mile acre of land for the community to use as a garden this summer.

A planning group of neighbors and church members began to meet in March. The combined talents and assets of the group and other neighbors have contributed to the garden’s success.

The garden was tilled, a well dug, a blog was created, gardens staked, signs made, funds collected, garden storage cabinet built, picnic table donated, and compost box built for the shared use of the gardeners. 50 plots have been rented by the neighbors with an area of corn for everyone to enjoy.

Neighbors chat together as they work on their gardens and they are beginning to share their peas, beans, zucchini and other vegetables that are growing in abundance.

The progress and sense of community ownership is expressed on the blog created by a gardener on the planning team -


Prayer Garden Walk Reflection

This reflection is from guest blogger Tiffany C, one of our walkers of the 4K prayerwalk and garden fundraiser on 10/31/09. A gardener herself, she also started one of our neighborhood gardens in Monterey Park and helps maintain our current gardens. Pictures courtesy of Tiffany as well.

When I take the time to walk someplace instead of drive (if possible) I notice things that I wouldn’t if I was inside a car. When I sit in a car with the heater on or the air conditioner blowing, the windows up, and music playing, I am blocked off from the world around me; I don’t notice the details I am driving by.

On the prayerwalk this past Saturday it was an opportunity to notice the details in the city. I saw beauty: roses, birds of paradise, pumpkins, pomegranates, and new growth on trees…Fall. I saw neighbors: people going on walks, working on their garden, washing cars. I saw community: churches preparing for a Fall festival, friends walking and talking with each other, and new friendships being made. As we prayed for the city of Monterey Park we were blessed with meeting new brothers and sisters in this city. It was a blessing to experience God’s children acting as one body, regardless of what church we go to on Sunday or our political affiliations.

I am so excited about what God is doing in this place. It is so encouraging to see people praying for neighbors they do not know, for students, and businesses. I am so excited about the neighborhood gardens that are growing. It is a blessing for me to be a part of planting these gardens and helping them grow. I can see how they are helping build community and friendships in addition to just growing a crop of vegetables. And I can’t wait to have a harvest that is bountiful so that we can share food to our neighbors, some of whom may be hungry. For where there is food people will gather. Kingdom Causes Alhambra & Monterey Park Blog

Community Building Intergenerationally

This was a new garden we set up in Monterey Park yesterday to add to the community gardens we’ve started in the summer. The grandmother of the woman who lives at this location mentioned to me that in the 68 (!) years she’s lived in Monterey Park, there have been many gardens grown in her backyard. Ears of corn, squash, tomatoes and all manners of veggies were grown which also helped to feed the 4 kids that grew up at this house.

I also appreciated how the grandmother said with pride about her granddaughter how she was “doing her grandfather right” by growing food again after many fallow years. And that blessing sparked me to think that part of what these gardens do in building community is that they can bring the generations together. They should bring the generations together!

Anyway, when these beds are overflowing with veggies, we’re growing to throw a “harvest party” for the neighborhood…young and old and of course, those young at heart!

Jesse Chang

Visit Kingdom Causes Alhambra’s Blog

Community Garden

Community Garden from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

How can you bring neighbors together and encourage neighborhood involvement? Start a community garden.www.communityencompass.org
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (4:46)
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Ground-swell for Community Garden

A new community garden is just about to emerge.  Just south of Aaron Drive, located in north Lynden, WA., members of Sonlight Community CRC have been meeting with nearby residents asking if they would be interested to organize a community garden.

So far over 35 residences have showed interest.

On Saturday, April 25th, the overall general membership met to decide on a number of organizational matters that charted the course for this community effort. Planting of seeds and transplants will likely begin the following week.

More information may be gleaned on the goings-on with this new effort via a link to their blog: http://northcitycommunitygarden.blogspot.com/

A recent article on the garden was published by the Lynden Tribune, link to it here: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273

Community Garden Draws People Together from Area Neighborhoods for Common Goal

Tim Newcomb
Tribune assistant editor
The Lynden Tribune
Country Life

April 8, 2009

LYNDEN — It is a garden for the community, by the community. And it is that way by design.

Sonlight Community Church has donated three-quarters of an acre along Aaron Drive for use by the local community as a plotted community garden.

Behind the initiative of church-goer and community activist Jeff Littlejohn, nearly 300 homes in the neighboring high-density community were invited to participate in the new garden.

The church is simply donating the space and letting the community take charge of planning it.

Littlejohn said it has been a true community effort.

Melissa Nienhuis, resident, said that she was “surprised to see a group who didn’t know each other agree on a plan (for the garden) and work together.”  “I have never felt that sense of community,” she added.

Lisa Kusick said the initial meeting of interested residents was shockingly “inspiring.”
She said she got involved because she wanted to grow peas like her “granny” did. “It went from growing peas to growing a community,” she said.

Neighbors from Heartland, Parkview West Apartments, Lynden Manor, Lynden Manor Condominiums, Heritage Park and Fishtrap Landing were all invited to participate. All of those areas are high-density, providing residents little to no room for a garden of their own. The garden still has room for residences of those areas to join in.

Littlejohn said it simply worked out that the location of the garden is surrounded by high-density housing.

A dozen people on a steering committee are planning the rules and bylaws for the North City Community Garden, which is expected to have about 26 households participating. The first order of business was to determine the garden is going to be organic. Other decisions are on the way.

Nienhuis said that it is turning into a great family event, as kids are excited to participate in the learning process.

The garden itself will feature three different sizes of plots ranging from 4 feet square to 10 by 20 feet.

Plans include a communal plot for corn, shrubs, flowers and trees on the outside of the garden, a split-rail fence along Aaron Drive, the creation of a gathering area outside of the garden and the fixing-up of a nearby shed (which at one time was used as a residence for a farmhand) for use by the gardeners.

Discussions over creating raised beds, making it easier for older members to participate, are in the works.

“We want the old-timers to help,” Littlejohn said.  “We have so much to learn,” Nienhuis   added.

The garden will be planted when the weather allows. Littlejohn said he was able to get Whatcom County and the City of Lynden to work together — a feat in and of itself — to bring in river silt, which a local farmer spread. Edaleen Dairy offered free manure, which was tilled by Eldon Heutink. The most recent layer of compost is germinating, getting ready for planting with another mix of high-quality compost.

Nienhuis said she is looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share in the knowledge of gardening and the community it brings.

Kusick said she has already met neighbors she hadn’t known before. “That is the other part that is so much fun,” she said. “Strangers are coming together with this purpose in mind. That is a big part for me.”

There is hope that in the fall, the plot of ground can be used as a winter garden showcase and that the Lynden Boys & Girls Club, which meets at the church, can play a role in the gardening. Nienhuis thinks that enough food can be raised to donate to Lynden’s Project Hope.

Littlejohn praised the efforts of Third Christian Reformed Church in planting a community gardening seed across Lynden.

Last year, Third kicked off its own community garden (as chronicled in the Tribune) under the direction of Dave Timmer. Littlejohn said that that plan sparked the thoughts of starting one at Sonlight.

Alyce Werkema is also spearheading a similar effort at United Methodist Church of Lynden.

Master Gardeners
The WSU Whatcom County Master Gardeners will visit the North City Community Garden of Lynden at 10 a.m. on April 18 to help neighbors get ready to grow their own groceries. They will be teaching how to prepare soil, which vegetables are best for our region, how to build raised beds and other useful structures and how to site and design your garden. All are invited to this free event.

Demonstration Garden
As part of Littlejohn’s Imagine Northwest community partnership organization located at Lynden’s New Hope Center, 205 South B.C. Ave., he has created a demonstration garden in the front of the building.

The small garden, which is simply layers of compost and straw on top of cardboard (to keep the weeds out), is designed to allow people to learn how to garden. The style Littlejohn uses enables layering, which replaces tilling.

It has also served as a teaching tool for the youth housed at New Way Ministries, as they helped with the initial planting recently.

  E-mail Tim Newcomb at .
[Found at: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273 ]
You can visit the North City Community Garden (NCCG) blog by clicking here .

A Story of Transformation

The story of Joy and Jose:

Joy came to Winton LifeLine Community Center in need of emergency food. In the past the center gave out food to hundreds of people as they were standing in line, but we realized that this ‘quick fix’ made us feel good but really did not help the people look at their preferred future.

So, we changed our approach. We still help with emergency food, but not without hearing people’s stories, learning about their plans and dreams and passion and encouraging them to take the next step.

As we listened to Joy’s story we learned that her Hispanic husband had been laid off, that his 3 children often spend time at their home and the she was pregnant with their first baby.  Joy is a very articulate young woman and we could see that there was so much more there about her, then just her need for food. When Joy missed the bus to get her GED we helped her and in turn got invited to her graduation where she beamed with pride.

While Joy grew up on welfare, she was determined not to become another statistic. We encouraged her to go to college and pursue her dreams and helped with gas money at times. Various government agencies also saw her potential and helped her get enrolled.

We also invited Joy to be part of our Community Garden and she was so excited to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for the family.

During her time at the community garden she connected with the Loren & Barbara, the farmers who provided the land. They mentored her in various aspects: how to appreciate God’s creation and care for it, how and when to grow the plants, how to prepare and store them, how to use spices. During this time a lot of personal mentoring and encouraging took place.  Everybody enjoyed this growing friendship and learned from each other.

When Joy comes home from her weekly trips to the garden, she shares the fruit of her labor with her neighbors who in turn share some of their goods with her. Together they decided that they could have some vegetables in their own little apartment complex.

Joy heard about the Master Gardener Program and is planning to go through the training so that she can share with others what she has learned and give back to the community. She is dreaming and planning for a big community garden in Winton.

Over time she received other items through various agencies and groups (diapers, furniture, clothing) and she noted that many of her neighbors did not speak English and had a difficult time getting the help that they need. We started talking about starting a Spanish/English class. Some of us would learn Spanish and others English, building a bridge between the Hispanic and Anglo community.

During these tough economic times Joy and Jose are at times in need of help, but that does not hinder her from helping others in her community, building bridges between races and working with her neighbors to transform her apartment complex.  They share groceries and receipts, exchange clothing, help each other when in need and enjoy a growing community.

While it all started with the need for groceries it sure went much further than that!

Monika Grasley

Five Loaves Farm: 3rd CRC Lynden

Last spring, though the rains incessantly continued, the days were lengthening and we broke ground on the backyard.  Our church was trying something new.  We planted a garden.

As the tiller chewed the sod, with optimism, I wondered where this was leading us.  Our hope was to bring our church outside the walls, bringing church members, neighbors, and the community together in some small way.

The idea was to accomplish that through tending the soil, creating a beautiful space, and sharing the bounty.  While we somewhat blindly felt our way through the first growing season, it worked.  Five Loaves Farm brought together people from our church, neighbors, and those in need.

One evening while we harvested produce to distribute to the neighbors, a family who often walked by the garden showed a strong interest in our activities.  They walked through the garden with tons of questions.  The mother and father – who spoke no English – pointed and smiled at the different plants.  The son and daughter asked about the artichokes and told how their mother uses different foods in her traditional Indian dishes.  After several minutes of conversation and sharing stories they joyfully continued their walk with a bag overflowing with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peppers.  We went back to our harvest.

An hour later, a car drove up and the son jumped out with a bag of Swiss chard.  He handed me the bag with a smile stating that, with gratitude, they wanted to share with us something from their home garden.  Perhaps next year, I’ll taste one of his mother’s meals.

Dave Timmer

How Good Does Your Garden Grow?

Harvesting The Assets in the Alger Heights Neighborhood

What does Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) look like in the Alger Heights community?  This is a question I have been throwing around in my head ever since my wife and I moved back into the neighborhood about a year ago.  The Alger Heights is a neighborhood with resources and possibilities.  It is also a community with a strong core of middle to upper-middle class people eager to see change.  I would boldly say that ABCD in the Alger Heights neighborhood is not as provocative as something in a more inner-city or “rougher” neighborhood.  However, I would also like to say that ABCD is needed everywhere in our communities no matter the racial make up or socio-economic status.  ABCD is about linking, partnering, relationship building, and discovering.  It does not matter whether your doing this in East Grand Rapids, Marne, Muskegon, or in the heart-side neighborhood….it is all the same!

With that said, let us go back to the question already posed. What does ABCD look like in the Alger Heights community?  One thing was very clear when I moved back from Muskegon to Grand Rapids.  First, the neighborhoods were vastly different.  I went from a mostly lower-economic and racially diverse neighborhood to a neighborhood that was wealthier and for the most part was pretty homogenous in terms of its ethnic make up.  Second, people in the McLaughlin neighborhood of Muskegon were very willing to help at any time of the day because most of them were either unemployed or collecting disability.  They were accessible and hungry to do things in their neighborhood.  In the Alger Heights, neighbors are willing to do things but they are busier.  They have other activities that take place at all hours of the day leaving very little time and energy to plug in new things.  Time management In Grand Rapids is very different than it is up in Muskegon.

It became apparent that we needed to do a lot of listening to our neighbors to hear their stories and seek out their dreams and goals for the community.  Something had to be discovered amongst my fellow residents that struck a cord in their hearts, something that they wanted to see change.  One such thing that kept coming up in conversations was that  we no longer have a local grocery store.  It was something that deeply affected all of us in this neighborhood.  Many people talked about how they missed the grocery store and produce section.  Someone had mentioned at a Alger Heights Business Association meeting that we should start a community garden.  And from that point on, we have gained great momentum.

From a cold February evening to now summer weather in June, we as a garden club have come a long way! Over the past three months a group of neighbors, business owners, and church members have been meeting to discuss the possibility of having a community garden in our neighborhood. What has transpired from our discussions is now a thriving community garden that boasts 68 plots with 115 members!

We had to keep the purpose clear though.  In my Muskegon context it was interesting to see neighbors realize the potential of creating a community garden or gathering space because they had been told that they could not do this or that they needed money for it.  It was something that was hard for them to dream about because they had never had anything like it before.  Within the Alger Heights community, posing the idea of having a community garden sounded good to people but something that they also had not seen before.  We wanted to get people on board that wanted to see this as more than just gardening but as something that allowed people to connect with one another.  We did not want to offer a service to the neighborhood but with our group of ABCD believers….offer an opportunity to grow together in gardening and in relationship building.

It has been a blessing and a privilege to work, grow, and partner with the community and the local churches in this wonderful community nurturing opportunity.  Our garden club constructed its mission statement to reflect our hopes and dreams for our neighborhood.

Mission Statement:

Alger Heights Community Garden Club is a club made up of neighbors, local businesses, and churches in the hopes that we will build community while beautifying our neighborhood and growing produce to share, sell, or support our friends and local non-profits.  We are a body of people that want to create and build community capacity and relationships in the context of a community garden by which we strengthen ties and awareness of community felt needs and desires.

We could not have gotten where we are today without a emphasis on relationship building and communication.  These were strong skills that I had sharpened up in Muskegon but then was able to take and transplant here in the Alger Heights.  Before we as a body of people can come together to work, we need to be able to respect, trust, love, and learn from each other.  This meant a series of meetings every week to plan and just to hang out to get to know everyone.  We have continued these meetings at my house in which we have small potlucks every Tuesday night.

The garden club has enabled people to connect and network in many ways that might not have been possible were it not for the community garden.  What has been a blessing to see is how people have used their gifts, time, and resources to make this garden club a reality.  Here are some of their stories.

Alger Heights All-Star: Alan Arkema
I met Alan at the beginning of my internship at Seymour CRC.  He is a retired pastor that still does some pastoral visits to some of our shut ins in the congregation.  Alan joined our community garden project and soon took to work helping those who did not have much gardening experience.  When it comes to vegetables and gardening, Alan is a good resource to have!  For someone who is retired, Alan does not act like he is.  He has helped install our garden sign, brought his personal branch chipper from home to cut down branches, and also help build our compost pile! We are blessed to have Alan Arkema in our garden club and thankful for his willingness to serve.

Rough and Tumble Gardener: Randy Pritchard
If you saw Randy drive down your street on his Harley Davidson motorcycle you might become a bit frightened.  He is a tall man with big muscles and tattoos everywhere. He can seem intimidating but when you meet him and get to know him you find a man committed to the Lord and to his community.  Randy has used his time and his pick up truck to seek out donations for bark chips and for delivering the necessary things to our garden club.  He and his wife Gail have been long standing residents of the Alger Heights and are glad to see neighbors coming together to work.  Randy is always willing to let us use his pick up truck for the needs we might have.

Artistic Flair: Simone Gibson
Simone was eager to pitch in and use her talents of art and design to decorate and paint the sign that was made by a local congregant at Seymour CRC.  Our sign is a big wooden sign with a corkboard on the front for those wishing to post updates, rules for the garden, or other community happenings. Simone along with a few other garden members are working to paint the sign and make a mural on the back reflecting key points to our mission statement and highlight the beauty of gardening.

I could go on and on listing stories of those who have helped and used their gifts and knowledge to make this idea into a reality.  This is the beauty of ABCD.  It is about seeking out the gifts and potential in the neighborhood and then allowing opportunities for those with the skills, abilities, ideas, and dreams to use them in ways to strengthen and grow the neighborhood into a better place to live.  We have come a long way since our meetings in February but we can now say when asked: “How good does your garden grow?” Very well, Thank you!

Josh Holwerda

Josh Holwerda grew up in the Alger Heights Grand Rapids neighborhood.  Following college, he completed two years of community development work as a CRWRC sponsored Americorps Member in Muskegon Michigan.  Josh is now at Calvin Seminary, again living in the Alger Heights neighborhood, and interning at Seymour CRC.  The story below reflects just a part of the long arc of God’s goodness in his still young  life.

Visit Seymour CRC’s website by clicking here.

Visit Volunteers in Service’s website by clicking here.

The Redemption of the Social Canvas of Hunting Park

The Hunting Park Community Garden Mural Project will overlook the Hunting Park Community Garden, a collaborative effort of many neighborhood residents, associations, and organizations over the last two years which has transformed a vacant, trash-strewn lot into a space for gardening and social interaction.  The Mural Project will be led by Ayuda Community Center and will be our 4th work of public art created to beautify our neighborhood.  The project begins on April 26th with a completion date of June 14, 2008.

The Mural Project is the result of 18 months of collaboration between staff members at Ayuda and community residents who form the Friends of Hunting Park Community Garden.  For this project, we will also partner with Youth Build Charter School which enables students ages 16-24 to work toward their GED or High School Diploma while receiving job training and engaging in community service.  The mural will be painted on 12 Alucabest panels (exterior grade aluminum signboard) over the span of three Saturday Workshops and the finished product will be installed on the east wall of a row home facing the community garden.  In addition to creating beautiful art for public display, the Hunting Park Community Garden Mural Project will educate participants on the benefits of gardening for individuals and communities.

Students from Youth Build and young leaders from our neighborhood will lead approximately 40 community residents as they contribute to the painting of the mural.  During this time, architect Juliet Lee will make a 30 minute presentation from her 2005 ArchVoices award winning essay entitled “The Value of Architecture and Design as an Issue of Social Justice.”  Then the co-founders of the Hunting Park Community Garden, Jeff Manson and Andy Nolan, will give information about the history the Garden, its impact on our community, and how community residents can be involved.

A key word in the mission statement of Ayuda Community Center is “transformed.”  The community beautification projects completed by Ayuda accomplish this goal more visibly than any other activity that we engage in.  The entire community of Hunting Park can see the tangible transformation of our neighborhood as we work together to complete and install these public works of art.  Furthermore, a deeper goal of social transformation is being accomplished below the surface as neighbors work together strengthening the relational fabric of the community.  Indeed, the redemption of the social canvas is a parallel aspect of working together on a physical one.

Since the completion of our mosaic project neighborhood residents and members of the Friends of Hunting Park Community Garden have enthusiastically inquired when the next art project will be.  This previous art installation at the site of the garden generated momentum to do more creative work together as a community and fostered a strong sense of community pride among the participants.  These results have propelled community residents toward this Mural Project and Ayuda is proud to facilitate the process.  Our community, which is often publicized for acts of violence, drug related behavior, and urban poverty, longs to spend energy toward efforts that have a positive effect on our environment and attract attention to our community for good things.

By Michaelanne Harriman
Community Arts Director, Ayuda Community Center

Healthy Neighborhood Project

Healthy Neighborhood Project from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

The Healthy Neighborhood Project is organized around the philosophy of helping people in the community fund and implement ideas around THEIR gifts and interests.
Posted: Dec. 3rd, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Organizing

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