Help Build a Sculptural Garden Along Northern Strand Community Trail

Written by Carolyn Lewenberg at MAPC with additional comments provided by Emily Nink, Kathleen O’Brien, and Jenn Erickson

Community gardeners and other members of the public excited about growing food are invited to help build a sculptural garden area along the Northern Strand Community Trail!

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s arts and culture, environment, and public health teams are working with the City of Everett, Everett Community Growers, and UMass Boston School for the Environment to design this project with input from community gardeners.

Sign up for workdays here and read on to learn about the garden, how it incorporates public art, and how community members can contribute!

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, a group of community gardeners from both the Florence Street Community Garden and the Tremont Community Garden gathered to discuss a design for a proposed public art and urban agriculture project. Read about our first community meeting in December here.

The meeting, held at La Comunidad, INC, drew a diverse and intergenerational group of individuals and families. Materials were translated into Spanish, and residents were invited to help build the garden and to capture the process through images and reflections. This project also helps advance the Everett Open Space & Recreation Plan.

Residents discussed a plan for a garden area featuring a central sculptural seating element with concentric circles of paths and garden mounds radiating out from that point. The design concept represents a ripple on the surface of water, caused by a drop of water. In this vision, community gardeners are all drops of water, creating a ripple effect to encourage more people to get involved in the community.

The group discussed the vision of this art project: the design is intended to not only spark visual interest, but also to grow food and build community. The first step in the project is to create the visually eye-catching aspects: a central sculptural bench and neat brick paths. Signage at the sculpture and paths would orient people to days residents can help work on the garden if they’re interested in getting involved.

The bench and the paths will be installed in March with in-kind support from the City of Everett, and residents can help create garden beds during Saturday work days from March 24 until the end of April. All community members are invited to join the work parties and we hope this will be a great community building experience.

The garden mounds will be made from burying Christmas trees and branches in compost and topsoil. This method of garden construction is called “Hugelkultur” and is a great way to use tree debris to create a self-fertilizing system that requires little water once established. The community discussed planting these hugelmounds with crops that are harder to grow in small garden plots. The group agreed that each of the three garden mounds would be planted differently: one will have corn, one will be a pumpkin patch, and one will be a mix of annual flowers to attract pollinators. Spreading herbs may be planted at the base of the garden mounds. Community Gardener Jorge committed to being the primary farmer for the corn, and the point people for the flower bed and the pumpkin patch have yet to be identified. Let us know if you are interested! We realize that the success of this project lies in the commitment of community members who will regularly visit, pull weeds, and water the plants.

The revised design also creates a space for gathering, which was emphasized at the first design review conversation in December. Community Gardeners asked for space to have workshops, concerts, and garden parties, as well as a place for kids to play while adults work in the garden. The sculptural water drop bench is the center of that gathering space, so people can have a place to sit and relax. Cushions for the bench and more seating would be available in a shed, similar to the ones at the Community Farm and the other Gardens. In the proposed design, the shed provides a structure for growing grapes, which will help to keep it cool in the summer.

Meeting attendees recognized that community gardening contributes to physical and mental health and social wellbeing, and that documenting health outcomes of this project may demonstrate success to the City and other communities who we may be interested in supporting more projects like this in the future.

Everett Community Growers, a local membership organization working to improve health outcomes and increase civic and community engagement through urban agriculture and other food justice initiatives, is also working with The City of Everett and MAPC’s public health team on a Community Food Assessment. One aspect of the assessment is capturing portraits and food stories from community members, which will be incorporated on tiles on the central sculpture.

Key partners in the Earthworks project also include the UMass Boston (UMB) School for the Environment and the Trotter Institute. This project is made possible with a technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and funding from the Barr Foundation, with in-kind support from the City of Everett and Everett Community Growers. The project is staffed by the MAPC Arts & Culture Division with additional support from the Environment and Public Health teams.

MAPC’s Arts and Culture Division delivers technical assistance in emerging practice areas including cultural planning, creative placemaking, creative community development, arts and cultural data collection and analysis, and cultural policy. The division also develop and deliver trainings for planners, community developers, and local government officials that aim to build competencies in the aforementioned practice areas, and is responsible for the award-winning Arts & Planning Toolkit.