Visitors to Newmarket’s London and Main community garden expect to come away with green thumbs, but this summer they might just leave with paint-stained fingers.
The York Region Food Network (YRFN) will hold pop-up Art Hives at the garden once a month from June to September, with activities including sculpture making, watercolour painting, plant rubbings and basketry.
Art Hives may seem outside of the box for an organization that promotes access to healthy, sustainable food, but YRFN hopes to bring new visitors to the garden.
“We have been discussing what the role of a community garden is and how we can expand a garden’s reach and benefits to people who may not actually have an interest in gardening,” explained Jessica Tong, urban agriculture coordinator at YRFN. “We think that the social connections aspect of community gardens is such an important piece.”
Suzanne Borduas, an art therapist and community garden volunteer, proposed the plan for pop-up Art Hives in the garden based on the Art Hive movement led by Dr. Janis Timm-Bottos of Montreal’s Concordia University.
Art Hives across the country welcome people to small, accessible spaces for free community art making, with the belief that creating art is a fundamental human behaviour. No artistic experience is needed to participate and all are welcome.
“One of the core values of the Art Hive model is that everyone is an artist,” Borduas said. “I think many people just have not had the opportunity to be creative. They may have been turned off to their creative side for some reason, be it their own internal critic or some judgmental person who did not value or understand the art work.”
Organizers hope the lush garden setting will offer inspiration to participants. With that in mind, some of the activities incorporate natural materials — organic grape ivy will be used to make mobiles and dyes made from flowers and plants grown in the garden will be used to dye fabrics.
YRFN has two community gardens in Newmarket, an allotment garden, which provides residents with their own plots of land, and one collective garden, which sees people share the work and the harvest.
Newmarket’s allotment garden currently has 106 plots, with about 30 people on the waitlist. The collective garden is home to herb beds, fruit bushes, flowers and vegetable beds, as well as a little free library, a bee hotel and picnic tables. Volunteers are welcome, including students wishing to complete their high school volunteer hours.
“The concept of the garden is ‘share the work, share the harvest,’” Tong explained. “Gardeners are welcome to come and pick any produce from the garden as they need. We just ask that gardeners only take what they need.”
Excess harvests are donated to the local food pantry.
Art Hive activities are free and participants do not need to register. Event dates are June 22, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21.
For more information, visit http://yrfn.ca/.
For more information about youth volunteering, contact Sarah Epp, youth engagement coordinator, at email@example.com.