On a snowy afternoon in Everett, MA, more than a dozen community members gathered to discuss a proposed public art and urban agriculture project. Hosted by MAPC’s Arts & Culture Team and ECG, with support from the City of Everett, residents shared their hopes and vision for the upcoming project along the Northern Strand Community Trail. With a working title of “Everett Earthworks” (to be officially named by the community) this sculptural garden would serve as artwork, recreational green space, and space for food production.
The site design features circular garden beds and paths that represent ripples created by a water drop hitting the surface of water. A vertical element in the center of the garden represents the water drop, and it will feature portraits of community members and their food stories. The metaphor is that when people share their stories and grow food together, it will create a ripple effect, and more people will become involved in community gardening. *Which is what we all want!*
The “ripples” are curved garden mounds made from burying Christmas trees and branches in compost and topsoil. This method of garden construction is called “Hugelkultur” and is a great way to use tree debris to create a self-fertilizing system that requires little water once established. The community discussed planting these hugelmounds with crops that are harder to grow in small garden plots: cut flowers to attract pollinators, pumpkins, squashes, corn, herbs, and berries, for instance.
The meeting, held in both Spanish and English, drew families and participants of all ages. MAPC’s Artist in Residence, Carolyn Lewenberg, introduced the preliminary concept and designs to the group and discussed the larger vision for the project. Participants were asked to provide feedback on the design, current use and accessibility of the site. Community growers discussed how the proposed garden could connect with other community gardens in Everett. The group shared thoughts about soil quality, watering plans, storage, meals they’d like to cook with their new produce, the challenges of currently neglected space, and the benefits that a new green space would provide.
Along the walls, Lewenberg displayed designs, as well as key questions about community benefits and impacts upon which participants shared their perspectives. One such question read: “What kinds of activities do you think would bring people together in this space?” Ideas that were generated included musical events, planting events, gatherings to pull weeds and harvest, path cleanups, lunches with food grown in the gardens, workshops, and kid’s events. Other questions generated important feedback with regards to equity, resilience, community ownership, and creating opportunities for families to be engaged.
Organizers plan to take the design feedback into consideration and present a revised design in January. Organizers are also planning community garden raising events in March and April, and will regroup after the growing season in October to ask similar questions to compare residents’ initial thoughts on the project, and assess progress made.
The Everett Earthworks project is intended to advance the City of Everett’s 2017 Open Space and Recreation Plan update, as well as a Community Food Assessment currently underway through Everett Community Growers, the City of Everett, and MAPC. Key partners in the Earthworks project also include the UMass Boston (UMB) School for the Environment and the Trotter Institute. This project is made possible with a technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and with in-kind support from the City of Everett and Everett Community Growers.
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