There’s an experiment in community enhancement going on in Texas that we’d like to promote a little here. A small design firm in Austin is leading a novel partnership between public and private entities to create a sustainable community garden on public land to be managed by a private charitable organization. The North Austin YMCA Community Garden could be a model for future environmentally friendly urban resource projects, not just in the Texas capital but around the country. And we’ve got a hand in it, too.In early 2012, the Thoughtbarn design studio won a commission from the City of Austin Art in Public Places Program to design the first “artist-led community garden” in the state. The plot of land chosen was city property adjacent to the North Austin YMCA. According to the people at Thoughtbarn, the “project is an experiment on many levels – in defining a garden as public art, in making publicly-owned land available for community gardening, in growing food at a YMCA facility – and is an example of expanding citywide efforts to support local, sustainable food production at the institutional level.”
Thoughtbarn currently described its Community Garden as follows: “The radial site plan is beginning to take shape, in the form of gravel paths and pie-shaped mulched areas. Over the next few weeks we’ll be installing a sculptural fence and toolshed, raised and handicapped accessible garden beds, fruit trees and wildflowers. The intention is for the garden to work for both individual gardeners and YMCA programming. The sculptural fence will form a secure boundary around the members’ garden plots while a ‘public spine’, open to everyone, will contain YMCA-managed demonstration beds and a shady gathering space beneath an existing Arizona Ash. Future phases will hopefully include a teaching pavilion, greenhouse and additional teaching and member plots.”
The goals of this public art project, according to the organizers, include:
Integration of artist views and perspective into the design of a community garden.
Creation of a gathering space for the local community that will be maintained and used by local neighbors. The hope is that it will engender stewardship and a community sense of pride.
Development of a sustainable and ongoing community garden that will produce fresh vegetables for the area.
Providing a place to reflect on concepts of “mind, spirit and body’ via the visual art that will placed in the garden.
The North Austin YMCA Community Garden will officially hold its Grand Opening and Documentary Film Screening (the project is being filmed for a documentary) on May 17, 2014.
Here’s the kicker: the sculptural fence mentioned above is being constructed using Lexco Coated Cable by local volunteers, including members of the Girl Scouts of America, one of our partners. We’re proud to be associated with such a fine project and wish its organizers continued success in bringing it to fruition.