October 13, 2009

Edible garden at 5710 celebrates Hyde Park history

The Timuel D. Black Edible Arts Garden, which officially opened last Monday in the courtyard adjacent to 5710 Woodlawn Avenue, encapsulates the history of Hyde Park in just 50 square feet of crop-yielding plants and sculpture.

The garden, named for the civil rights activist, educator, and author of Bridges of Memory, is intended to increase community outreach and education efforts. Organizers will donate the fall harvest to a local food pantry in an attempt to teach residents about the importance of knowing from where their food comes.

The space is notable not just for its 61 varieties of plants and organic vegetables, but for the decorated hanging planters and pots that make the garden itself a work of art.

The garden is a collaborative effort between groups located in the building, including the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the LGBTQ Programming office, and the Civic Knowledge Project (CKP), a branch of the Humanities Department intended to improve community connections.

According to CKP Coordinator for Sustainability Partnerships Cecilia Donnely, a second-year in the college, the garden is meant as a model for the community.

“We wanted people to understand the potential for edible landscaping—it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space,” Donnely said.

However small, the garden contains more history than its size suggests: The dedication plaque once supported the historic Roundhouse building in Washington Park, where the DuSable Museum of African American History now sits; local, recycled glass forms rivers through the garden; and wire sculptures represent the Great Migrations of African-Americans to the Chicagoland area.

Donnely said that her favorite part of the garden is the stone planters built from paving stones that lined Chicago streets in the 19th and 20th century.