At the Carpenter Art Garden, our vision is to empower the children of Binghampton to create their best futures. We serve approximately 125 children each week through a variety of programming. Art is not in the curriculum at either [of the neighborhood schools] Cornerstone Prep or Lester Prep, so we fill an educational void. At our Tuesday Art Garden, for instance, volunteers work with children on take-home art projects or permanent art, such as our mosaic furniture, and we serve snacks and build relationships.
In 2013, GiVE 365, a dollar-a-day membership at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, awarded us our first major grant, for nearly $10,000, which funded most of the cost of operating the outdoor Art Garden for that year. That allowed us to focus our fundraising efforts on getting the Purple House built. Having an indoor space was a critical need for the Garden, and the grant gave us credibility in our fundraising efforts toward making that house a reality.
The Purple House is a multipurpose indoor space that hosts tutoring and small-group art lessons led by local artists. [Renowned local artists] Melissa Dunn, Danny Broadway, and George Hunt have all led classes in our studio space. We have computers for students to use for school projects; weekly classes include drumming, gardening club, and comic club. We are also starting our second community vegetable garden and hope to get the funding to create an outdoor classroom in this new garden. The garden club will be growing produce for the “traveling farmers market;” the children have helped to build a small produce cart that they can use to distribute fresh produce throughout this food desert neighborhood.
You may have seen wooden Grizzlies hearts in yards around town. Donte Davis’ Grizz heart business grew from a yearly Valentine project we do at the Garden. Children paint wooden yard hearts for their neighbors as a way to share their love for their neighborhood; we distribute approximately 200 or these each year. Donte painted a Grizz face on one of his hearts, which went in a neighbor’s yard. People started asking how they could get one, and Donte said he thought he could make more of them to sell and help raise money for the Purple House. After Geoff Calkins wrote a Commercial Appeal story on Donte, he has kept a waiting list of about 50 at all times. To date we have sold about 1,200 hearts.
Part of Donte’s story included his love of riding bikes. The bike he bought with Grizz money got destroyed because he let everyone he knew take a turn riding it. Geoff wrote about this, and we subsequently started receiving bike donations. We met Clark Butcher, GiVE 365 member and owner of Victory Bicycle Studio, at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that honored Donte. Clark presented Donte with a new bike. With so many donated bikes coming in, we started thinking about how awesome it would be to have a bike shop in the neighborhood for kids to learn bike mechanic skills, especially since we are right next to the Shelby Farms Greenline. After more thought, we came up with the idea to have the house be a kind of “job hub” for teens. They can come take classes in bike mechanics, graduate from a curriculum, earn hours teaching younger kids, and earn an apprenticeship with a local bike shop. Clark got six local bike shops to agree to participate by taking qualified kids as part-time employees or apprentices. We are developing other partnership programs, like sewing with Sew Memphis. Furniture restoration, frame building, and baking are also in the works, with collaborations being designed with Binghampton businesses T. Clifton Art Gallery, Bingham and Broad, and Muddy’s Bake Shop.
The Carpenter Art Garden has expanded in some really special ways over the past few years, and I know the support from GiVE 365 and its members made a huge impact on the growth of the Garden. To learn more about Carpenter Art Garden, go here. To find out about joining GiVE 365 go here.
This guest post is brought to you by Erin Harris with the Carpenter Art Garden. You can follow them on Facebook for updates.