Last month, Mayor Walsh announced the five winners of the City’s “Community Grown” program, which is a three year partnership between the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Trustees, and TD Bank.
One of the winning projects is in JP’s Leland St. Community Garden, for which the artists designed four tables that can be used for events featuring food, music, poetry, and social justice. Called Tended By All, Harvested By All, the program featured a kick-off event in August with JP Honk, yoga, and poetry.
Garden member DJamil Graham said that the artists, Jennie Rose Halperin and Alex Auriema, created the tables “in a respectful way,” with indigenous wood treated in an ancient Japanese process without using any chemicals. She said they used a burning method that chars the wood and then applied a whey product that seals the wood, making it water and fireproof.
“The intention is to seek 20 plus people and create events where food is central—to provide the meal and offer not just food for the stomach but food for the heart and soul,” Graham said.
The performance art and social organizations that participate in this project “are bringing change and comfort into the community and developing community itself,” she said.
Graham said that when the tables were revealed in the garden last month, she was happy to see that the artists were respectful of the history of the cooperative garden, and “integrated indigenous connection to the importance of inclusion and respect of all people.”
“Everything that we wanted they so generously complied [with],” Graham said of the artists. The tables are totally weatherproof and there are different options for storage. They can either remain outside all winter, or they can be disassembled and stored. “They’re very lightweight and very easy to move around; many different configurations,” Graham said. They can be placed in one long line, in a horseshoe, etc. It’s customizable depending on the event, she said.
“We’re really grateful; everybody likes them,” she said.
Michelle de Lima, Engagement Manager at the Trustees, said that “we’ve been really wanting to increase the reach of the gardens so it’s not just people who garden in them, but neighbors can come in and enjoy them.” The Trustees currently oversees 56 community gardens in Boston, and hoped that the Community Grown program will expand the reach of those gardens to more residents of Boston.
She said that TD Bank approached the city wanting to fund a project for city engagement, and former Parks Commissioner Chris Cook suggested that they reach out to the Trustees as well.
“We did a bunch of site visits; looked at a bunch of gardens,” de Lima said. She said they put out a Request for Proposal from residents to use public space in innovative ways and engage the public in those spaces.
That was used last year, this year, and will be used next year as a means to gather artist proposals which are looked at by a committee with Trustees gardener. They pick three sites per year: two Trustees gardens and one city garden. This year, they chose five projects instead of three.
When choosing projects, they “look for a proven track record or a really good plan for community engagement,” she said. “Part of this project for us has just been to expand a skill building program city wide.” The Trustees has a “Seed Sow and Grow” workshop series in which they hire people to teach different classes across the city, and some of the funding was used for this project.
Tended By All, Harvested By All has several events coming up that will make use of the new tables. On September 25, a movie night was held in the Leland St. Community Garden, and coming up on October 1 is a Dinner in the Garden that will nourish the body, mind, and soul. On October 20, there will be a conversation on community ecology in the garden.