Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Notes from Around Town: GreenBranches Learning Garden at Stone Avenue Library

On July 10, 2008, there was a special little ceremony to celebrate the partnership between The Horticultural Society of New York and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the new sculptures out at the Stone Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Originally opened in 1914, Stone Avenue, once called the Brownsville Children's Library, was the first public library in Brooklyn designed and opened specifically for children. As part of HSNY's GreenBranches program, the garden at Stone Avenue was designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects and installed by the HSNY Green Team during winter of 2006 and opened in spring of 2007. Today it is a beautiful and aesthetic contribution to the neighborhood as well as being a programmatic space and living classroom for the local community.
(PS. if you want, click on the photographs to enlarge them to full size)
When I arrived at lunch time I found a number of our friends and partners from Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation busy working with and teaching kids of all ages.

Meredith McNeal, Director of Education at Rush, and her class of young watercolor painters had gathered and displayed their latest creations on the benches and were having an afternoon critique. Meredith was teaching the kids about everything from artistic composition to constructive criticism, and they weren't missing a beat.

Linda Pollak, above in the striped shirt, from Marpillero Pollak Architects came out to help us celebrate and see how successfully her garden design has been adopted by the local children. You might notice the beds and benches happen to be the perfect height for a small, curious soul. Yet another genius design by Marpillero Pollak. Green Branches Learning Gardens are designed with each individual community in mind and intended to provide a long-term and sustainable benefit to that neighborhood.

Also helping us celebrate were: Gabriel Pacheco, a Brooklyn artist and educator who's handy work you will see below; Paul Levy, Stone Avenue librarian and a great friend of HSNY; and Patricia Dean who runs the Brownsville Heritage House, a must-visit on the second floor of the library.
The real cause for celebration was the completion of amazing, one-of-a-kind wooden sculptures conceptualized and realized by Brooklyn teens under the supervision of Gabriel Pacheco. You see, before the winter of 2006 this exterior space behind the library had been heavily shaded by a number of Ailanthus altissima, commonly called tree of heaven. For those of you that know this tree, you know they grow like wildfire and are known to seed themselves everywhere they are not welcome, so HSNY made the decision to remove them. The result was a tremendous addition of sun that could then be utilized for growing a wide range of flowering annuals and perennials, including some very well-received tomatoes and basil. With the intention to recycle and use as much as possible in the garden, it was then decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to teach the kids a new art form, namely wood carving. Gabriel sat down with the teens and together they conceptualized how each trunk could be transformed and brought back to life. Over two months last year and one month this year the kids worked their hearts out, as did Gabriel, and created a total of five sculptures now permanently on display behind Stone Avenue.
A year later the teens posted their original drawings on the new shade structure in back and talked us through the creative process.
Gabriel and the students found many gallons of paint that could be recycled and cut up over 200 aluminum cans to add both color and and shiny metal adornments to these unique pieces of art.
Here two chess pieces were created to stand tall behind the raised beds overflowing with perennials coming into full flower.
One young woman had in mind an arrow piercing a broken heart, and thanks to the HSNY garden space and the guidance from those at Rush, she was able to make it a reality she is extremely proud of. The more we talked the more she pointed out to me how each sculpture was individual yet spoke to a common theme, the power of both mind and body. I began to see the peices in a whole new light and they became even more amazing to me.

Needless to say we here at HSNY are all extremely proud too. We couldn't be more proud of this garden that the local community can call their own, proud of this amazing partnership with our friends at Rush, and proud of the creative youth who are so uninhibited and inspirational. Bravo!
To learn more about HSNY and our various outreach programs, as well as information about becoming a member and helping to support these necessary efforts to improve the quality of life in New York through horticulture, visit our website, HSNY.org.

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