February 13, 2014
Works in Progress / YMCA Community Garden
This one’s been a long time coming …..which is why current momentum on the ground is particularly gratifying. At the beginning of 2012 we won a commission from Art in Public Places to design…more
This one’s been a long time coming …..which is why current momentum on the ground is particularly gratifying. At the beginning of 2012 we won a commission from Art in Public Places to design the first “artist-led community garden” in Austin. The site is at the North Austin YMCA on Rundberg Lane, an impressive new facility designed by Studio 8 Architects.
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. Friends, beware the ‘institutional experiment’! We’ve encountered energetic support and bureaucratic hurdles in equal measure. No less than eight City departments had jurisdiction over the project. We’ve been through a change of site, endless design revisions, permitting delays and a billion meetings.
But here we are! 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 project has enjoyed tremendous support from many different sources. Both the City and the YMCA have been incredibly committed to the project. Sari Albornoz of the Sustainable Food Center and John Hart Asher of the Ecosystem Design Group at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center have been invaluable sounding boards. The Garden Leadership Group, made up of energetic local residents, has done the hard work of creating by-laws, site rules and a membership sign-up system. Local film-makers, Flow Non-Fiction, have been documenting the process to make into a short film. And from our office, Kyle Norman, Andrei Klypin and Kate Nichols have each been instrumental in getting the project to this point.
Now we’re so close! And there are opportunities for everyone to help us finish! We’re holding a series of Community Workdays on Saturday February 22, March 1st and March 8th, from 10am – 2pm. Activities will include weaving the sculptural fence, building the garden beds, planting trees and painting the toolshed. If you would like to volunteer for any of these days, please sign up through this link. You can also email email@example.com with any questions. All ages are welcome.
The garden will be open for membership in mid-March. The final details of the sign-up system are being ironed out and will be released before the end of this month on the garden website. In the meantime more updates to come as the fun, photogenic stuff gets underway….LB