Berkeley has several community gardens. Karl Linn, the man who was instrumental in starting community gardens in NYC and Berkeley was also passionate about art. In the 1990s he convinced the Bay Area Rapid Transit District to lease some unused land at the northern boundary of the city surrounding the spot where the trains go underground. Over a few years, planting beds were built, trees and grapes and vines were planted and bamboo arbors created. But from the first, art was integral to the garden and there are many pieces by local artists both in the garden and along the walking and bike path that borders it.
John Toki’s colored clay sculpture has been in the garden for several years. Kids climb on it and it is sometimes used for a bench. Bermuda grass wants to take it over. People want to know how it was made.
There is a long waiting list to get a plot in the garden. No money is involved, but members have to agree to keep their plots planted and productive, although the choice of plants is completely unrestricted. Well, probably illegal substances would be frowned upon. One family seasonally grew a bountiful patch of stinging nettles which, although extremely healthy when cooked, posed some problems if approached without protective clothing. Eventually they gave up on the crop because of the butterflies! The owners would pull the nettles and hang them at home to dry and the caterpillars would eat and live in the curled up leaves and the family grew tired of caterpillars dropping on the floor and crawling around to find a place to attach prior to forming their chrysalids.
Many events are held in the garden. Parties, concerts, tastings, and classes all happen as well as just being open several days a week for people to stop by to smell the roses or, um, the monkey flowers. A couple of months ago a former garden member who grew herbs and roses and made tinctures from them, came back to give a class on herbs and their uses. She donated the money back to the garden and I was asked to make a commemorative piece in her honor. I did a painting on clay based on her artwork that she uses on her labels. It cracked during firing – split right down the middle. I need to redo the piece but haven’t gotten to it yet. It is so hard to go back and do it over, and I’m not sure I have totally figured out how manage the kiln temperature so the dunting doesn’t happen again. I am feeling my own pressure to get this done – the garden people are very patient- but haven’t been able to “just do it”. Any ideas on getting myself going on this?