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Garden Station, Dayton, Ohio

September 21, 2011

Trains roll by frequently above the 2-acre plot of land at the corner of 4th St and Wayne Ave.  Between the elevated tracks and the park below, colorful and graphic murals shaded by trees and flourishing flowerbeds invite visitors in for a closer look.  Started about 3 years ago by a group of artists, Garden Station was initiated out of a need for a community garden and experimental public art space.  Now Garden Station is an evolving public space with a commitment to urban agriculture and education, art and DIY sustainable practice.

I’ve visited the space three times in the past two weeks and three times have met Lisa Helms, a project manager for Garden Station (above, giving a tour).  Tirelessly supervising the needs of the park, Lisa is dedicated to creating a vibrant green space that attracts the curious, the artistic, those that want to get their hands dirty, and those that simply want to be part of a dialogue.  Influenced by creative process and aesthetic appreciation, Lisa spent some time in 2011 studying mosaic making with Isaiah Zagar in Philadelphia (a well-known artist noted for his work in revitalizing the once forlorn South Street and his Magic Garden creation) with plans to create a main entrance gate and pathway into the gardens inspired by Zagar’s work.  Additional plans include a community planting garden, a grab and take area garden open to all (and to help prevent the unsolicited taking of vegetables and fruits from others’ gardens), and a covered performance stage, all being implemented based on available funding, donations, and volunteer hours.

Although an idyllic destination in Dayton, Garden Station has not been without the problems of existing in an urban environment.  Volunteers recently found one wall of their Pop Bottle Greenhouse cut open and pushed in; planters are found overturned into the streets and flowers dug up and pocketed.  The space has historically housed  homeless at night, and is now patrolled on a regular basis by the Dayton PD.

Even with the vandalism, Lisa and the volunteers that put in many many hours every week, month, and year at Garden Station, have created one of the most dynamic gathering places in Dayton.  Open to all, the space has hosted weddings, runs a Sunday farmer’s market, hosts band performances, a resident artist exhibiting painting demonstrations on an over-sized easel and canvases (measuring about 20′ tall).  Garden Station is applying for its own 501(c)3 status (they are currently under a fiscal sponsor) and I hope will remain a constant pillar for innovation and positive thinking, encouraging discussion and action about the way we interact with our city and our urban spaces.

Learn more about Garden Station at  Join their Facebook page for the latest on volunteer hours and projects, as well as events.

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