GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-Over the course of 14 weeks, individuals ages 16 and older with disabilities have created and grown together through the Art of Gardening course offered by Artists Creating Together in partnership with the Creston Neighborhood Association.
Through ACT’s partnership with the Creston Neighborhood Association’s Carrier Street Garden, students have the opportunity to watch their plants grow for an entire season and get involved in the community. Working with teaching artist Brienna Gerard, students are planting tomatoes, basil, lettuce, kale, herbs and more, while also learning about each part of a plant and each element of a garden.
“ACT has been so wonderful to have in the garden. They have enhanced the atmosphere not only by their presence but by creating beautiful and educational works of art,” Mandi Creveling of the CNA said. “It’s so great to see the garden function not simply as a place for individuals to grow food, but also a space to educate, create, and grow community!”
For the visual arts portion of the program, students are working with teaching artist Tom Reynolds to create ceramic fairy houses and birdbaths. With teaching artist Di Szczesny, students will make salads, teas, desserts and other foods.
“This program has been a wonderful experience for all involved,” said ACT Program Coordinator Becky Baker. “We hear again and again how much everyone looks forward to coming to class each week. The pleasant summer evenings spent in the garden, the community that is forming among students, volunteers and teaching artists, and the variety of activities from week to week have made this class a lot of fun!”
Though the students learn a lot about plant growth, the program also emphasizes community growth and personal growth. One of ACT’s core values is empowering individuals with disabilities to be contributing members of the community. While working on beautification projects, growing plants, making food, and embracing their creativity, students have the chance to explore new ways they can make a positive impact in the community.
In addition to working in the community garden, students had the opportunity to take a field trip to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market and go on a tour of the indoor and outdoor facilities. They also had the opportunity to select and buy produce.
“The activities we do in this class are not only a lot of fun, but they are also teaching our students a lot of valuable skills that build personal growth and expression, independence and community involvement,” Baker said.
The class continues through September 8 and will end that evening with a potluck dinner at the garden from 5:15 – 6:15pm. Community members may register to attend on ACT’s Facebook page . All guests are asked to bring a dish to pass.