By Nadia Czebiniak, undergraduate student, International Business
This spring quarter undergraduate student, Nadia Czebiniak, led a series of activities to increase community engagement at the University of Denver (DU) Bridge Community Garden with the support of an Advancing Community-Engaged (ACE) Student Scholars Grant. After researching the benefits of community building through art and garden engagement, she created and implemented multiple three-day series of building connections through making art at the gardens. These events took place once a month from April to June and are already showing a strong positive effect on the community.
The DU Bridge Community Garden is situated to the west of the Boettcher complex on campus and serves staff and students at the university as well as local community members. The Garden is popular and well-liked by locals, however, in the words of one of the gardeners: “on a day-to-day basis, it’s rare to see other gardeners.” Although having a community is not intrinsic to creating a successful garden, the goal was to establish better connections in the garden community in order to increase the emotional value of a person’s membership and create beneficial ties throughout the local area. The idea of community events that bring people together seemed like a logical next step.
In order to make the events more impactful, each event was centered around an art project that would either serve to beautify the garden or allow people to further appreciate the plants in it. Activities included painting butterflies and other shapes to be hung on the fence, creating their own cyanotypes and pressed flower journals, and creating a ‘meet your gardeners’ hive. Food and music were also included to elevate each project from a single activity to a communal event. Gardeners were able to get to know each other, share their stories, exchange experiences and create new meaningful, connections.
Thanks to the ACE Student Scholars grant and these events, we were able to bring the gardeners together as a community and establish connections that were not previously there. In the words of one of the gardeners, “it’s great to connect with the other gardeners, see who they are and what they are up to in their plots! I like watching other people’s gardens grow as much as I like to watch mine.” The majority of participants commented that, although they enjoyed making garden art pieces, the social component of these events was what they valued most.