Gardening and art combine for Lincoln Park kids

How did you spend your summer vacation? The ever-present question at the beginning of each new school year will have an interesting answer from a group of Lincoln Park youngsters, who spent Wednesdays and Fridays planting, weeding, watering and h...

How did you spend your summer vacation?

  The ever-present question at the beginning of each new school year will have an interesting answer from a group of Lincoln Park youngsters, who spent Wednesdays and Fridays planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, keeping a field journal and pulling together garden-related art projects.

They get to rather publicly enjoy the fruits of their labor with a community harvest festival Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Duluth Art Institute's Lincoln Center.

Shannon Cousino, the art institute's new education coordinator, said the whole thing is about four years old and started with the Lincoln Park Boys & Girls Club's program teaching organic gardening.

When the club ran out of space, it came to the art institute, and a healthy collaboration was born. Eight raised gardens were built outside the art institute's Lincoln Park facility, which houses much of the organization's educational component.


"We brought in the art aspect to it," Cousino said.

With a grant from the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation's Wetherby Fund, the collaborative project was even able to hire Deb Hannu, a Cloquet art teacher, to work with the students.

Cousino said the art and gardening go together.

"I think the garden project, through the actual growing from seeds and the process of weeding and watering right into the various art projects that we do has taught the kids to be more patient and careful observers of their environment," she wrote in an e-mail. "Their attention spans are understandably shorter at a younger age, but if we are able to help them focus a little bit longer on the process of weeding or piecing together an intricate mosaic, then they will appreciate even greater the journey it took to achieve their goal."


Wednesdays meant gardening and the field journals, in which the young gardeners recorded their observations of the weather and the plants. Fridays involved more gardening, as well as more advanced art projects, which included mosaics, garden stepping stones and tags to mark different kinds of plants.

The mosaics were a favorite of Michelle, a 12-year-old who made it to the art institute just about every week. She said the mosaic allowed a lot of creativity with the little glass pieces.

Her least favorite part? "My least favorite thing is that you get kind of dirty," she said.


Mina, 7, said she liked watering. "I like the sunflowers, because they grow so big," she added.

Mina's favorite art project involved putting leaves on a piece of paper and using the sun to create impressions. She only missed two weeks of the program.

"All the people are new to me," she said, and she's made many new friends.

That's a key goal, according to Boys & Girls Club staff. Laurie Fiebiger, from the club, said it also gives the kids new experiences and new knowledge. About 20 kids participated, and about eight of them were very regular core members.

"It's a great partnership we've had over the years," she said, of the collaboration with the art institute.

In fact, zucchini brought them together directly this year.

"They picked the zucchini down here and brought it up and made the zucchini bread," Fiebiger said, describing one project involving both facilities.

The harvest festival will have four tables full of artwork, as well as music, food and a chance to play with different art materials. It's free and open to the public.


"It's a celebration of their hard work all summer," Cousino said.

It's also part of the art institute's outreach.

"We really want to do outreach with the Lincoln Park neighborhood more," Cousino said.

In addition, a small cookbook will be sold at the festival, featuring artwork the students made and recipes that feature the foods they grew -- zucchini, sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, beets and basil, among other produce.

Cousino said a separate event, a private one, will also be held with the core participants in the program, who will get to eat some of the food they grew.

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