Firstly, I will address the Place Game, which I will then follow by a list of comments/questions/concerns in no particular order in order to externalize the thoughts that run through my head in regards to garden.
1. Comfort & Image: 2.5
2. Access & Linkage: 1.75
3. Uses & Activities: 2.5
4. Sociability: 2.75
1. What do you like best about this place?
2. List three things that you would do right away to improve this place that could be done right away and wouldn't cost a lot?
-Beautification: planting vines, trellicing flowers, something to brighten up the fence and help the space stand out. At this juncture, the space itself isn't really visible amidst cement streets, cement sidewalks, parking lots, and a gravel bike garage next door.
Beyond being an eyesore, the fence poses another area of concern in regards to the space. The locked gate and chainlink fence suggest a space that is controlled. Who is controlling it? Who pulls the shots? It's relatively dormant, not really used by the student body (regardless of season) and various suggestions are dismissed because of needing to clear the proper people...how to we find the proper channels to activate the space?
-Somewhere to sit, even if behind the locked gate. Just a bench, or an old table and chairs, somewhere to meet for coffee. In a community garden where I used to work, there was a wooden reclaimed bench with an awning that had plants growing all up it. It was the best since I worked in a basement shop and didn't see the sun any other time of day, especially in early spring and late fall. The seating made it a destination, even if I wasn't the one gardening in it.
-Better signage. The present sign doesn't really feel like it does much for the space. It outlines the purpose of the space, but really doesn't allow me to connect with the space. Maybe have an annual listing of the plants being planted and what type of material they contribute to the space and where they are located? A way to know what is going on in those plots more that just a mission statement. It's all well and good to have a mission, but the mission needs to feel like it is an active one. If it's winter and things are just hangin' out like they do in the Midwest, tell us. Maybe...an idea.
3. What three changes would you make in the long term that would have the biggest impact?
-I think all of the previous suggestions for sure. Beautification, which requires constant participation from a community, which is, in turn activating the space. A compost system for sure, which really, you can teach people to compost properly, and learn a lot about so much that could fuel some people's artmaking (look at the suggestions you provided, it's a scientific process, ripe with its own potential).
-Collaborating more with the student body.
-If there is going to be that large open space without beds, putting in a supply shed for maintaining the lot, allowing the site to be called on as an inspiration for installations, creating a calendar of events surrounding the space that ideally would be events to contibute to a larger discourse about urban sustainability efforts, how these efforts are integrated into contemporary art practice, etc. etc.
-In regards to it being connected to the papermaking process, the extra space could be utilized for an outdoor papermaking workshop, using the mould method for drying the sheets. While they were drying it'd be a temporary installation that also was informative.
4. Ask someone who is in the "place" what they like about it and what they would do to improve it.
-I don't really know what's going on there. Maybe clean it up a bit?
5. What local partnerships or local talent can you identify that could help implement some of your proposed improvements? Please be as specific as possible.
-Local urban gardening organizations. People who have navigated permits and regulations for similar projects (sure, it's for paper, but it's still a reap and sow situation!). Peterson Garden Project on the -North Side is incredible. They've continue to reclaim vacant lots and turn them into community gardens and offer a variety of classes on urban gardening from the urban chicken, to apiaries, to the traditional square-foot method. Their system involved education and collaboration and continues to grow. I've attached a link to their website below.
What follows here is an expository writing about the space after visiting it. It lists various concerns and questions and some suggestions that may be redundant:
How do we look at the space?
How do we identify with it?
How does the school identify it within the institution?
Answering these questions could better help us assess both how to activate the space without stepping on any toes (a sentiment that seems counter to any ‘guerilla’ gardening activity). An obvious obstacle for a student wishing to engage with or build on the foundation of the HPGarden seems to come from navigating a bureaucratic process that isn’t transparent to us.
How is the success of the garden affected by its dependency on other organizations?
I’m not familiar with where the garden currently stands in the program; I hear murmurs of the potential for more funding that funding equals success. There’s the bubble bubble of excitement with the prospect of launching a second phase. All well and good but where do we find out more?
How do we communicate to the student body about the current standing of the garden? How can there be more transparency for interested parties?
There seems to be potential in partnering up with other urban agrarian movements within the city, other groups and organizations.
Why are we doing this garden? Why put edibles in it? You can’t feed the school on that plot obviously.
What about all that space? Why aren’t we using the space?
What are other plants that could be planted? What sort of agricultural models could we look to? Are we using the best plants for this situation? Why not plant rye or corn one year? That would yield something more encouraging for papermaking rather than marigolds-perhaps the floral plants would be better suited to pots on the peripherally to make the over-all presence of the space less grey.