Gardening has long fulfilled many needs, desires, and functions—whether as an art form, food source, or a way in which to build community. Now, as Des Moines-based artist Jordan Weber is illustrating, a garden can do all of that while also being a public place for nourishment and healing.
As the Walker Art Center’s current artist-in-residence, Weber is collaborating with Youth Farm, a Minneapolis youth-development organization, in transforming a vacant lot on Lyndale Avenue in the Hawthorne neighborhood into an urban farm. The lot includes a rain garden with native plants in addition to a pollinator area with native grasses and wildflowers. Fruiting shrubs, “aromatic pest confusers” such as thyme, and nitrogen-fixing plants are also part of the garden to not only provide berries for eating but to ensure the garden’s ecology remains robust.
Youth Farm decided on the varieties of tomato, pepper, greens, and herbs in the veggie garden—which are available to the community for free. A community table provides a space in which neighbors can gather and reflect on recent challenges—including the pandemic and the racial unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
“I have learned collaboratively with communities defined by geographic and economic disadvantage, and I work against this to help create healthy regional landscapes of resilience and sustainability through the arts, supporting social programs that operate within oppressive systems,” Weber said in a press release. “My projects seek to collectively open up community landscapes in restricted environments.”
Weber calls this garden Prototype for poetry vs rhetoric (deep roots). The lease for the garden is now held by Marcus Kar, Youth Farm’s director of North Minneapolis programs, and has been incorporated into Youth Farm’s community capacity building programs.