This collection of photographs documents how an abandoned lot in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood became a theater garden. In June 2013 I founded Green Scene Chicago and launched this project by rallying Uptown neighborhood families and Root Riot mentors to help with "Growing Our Community Day." Despite lots of rain we cleared out trash, spread wood chips, and built beds. In the following three months I guided 16 teenagers in paid apprenticeships as they further developed the site and became the grass roots organizers garnering eight new community-based partners to garden with us. The teens then hosted a garden bed dedication ceremony to welcome them in and the garden was named: Winthrop Harmony Arts Garden. In addition, I taught "Garden Groove," a free garden/dance summer camp for ages 8-12 and hosted a "Welcoming the Moon Harvest Festival," a free community event of music, crafting, games, harvesting, and dance. In the spring of 2014 I reopened the garden for its second season with a lottery and gifted 5 neighborhood families with garden beds. A new crew of 17 paid teen apprentices joined me from After School Matters, this time to grow even more food, to produce Project Tap Root and to perform original devised theater on site. Project Tap Root was a free six-week arts series in which nine Uptown youth companies performed in the garden. Green Scene’s Summer Stock teens created a final performance for the series with spoken word, music, dance, rap, and an adaptation of Seedfolks.
Thanks go out to 48th Ward's Alderman Harry Osterman, Root Riot, my friends, the Uptown/Argyle neighbors, After School Matters, The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, The Puffin Foundation, and the Muhammad Ali Foundation for their support.
Song Credit: Wilco and Charles Wright
Photo Credits: Martie Sanders and Kevin Davis