Vacant lots and abandoned land between buildings can be eyesores, but with a little positive thinking those spaces become a solution for a crowded city. Actress and singer Bette Midler did just that in 1995 and the non-profit New York Restoration Project was born.
Now there are more than 50 community gardens and more trees and parks – and volunteers to manage them all. This summer the NYRP added another free program called Arts in the Gardens – a partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
“Arts in the Garden is actually part of the new initiative which is Arts ACE which is activating community engagement. It’s really an extension of what we’ve been doing for a number of years, just with more resources. More energy focused on it, and a whole host of new local artists,” said Jordan Dyniewski, director of public events at the New York Restoration Project.
“The New York Restoration Project approached BAM about making suggestions for dance, music and movies. We had suggested working with Urban Bush Women and with Cora Dance and with Lemay Dance,” said Amy Cassello, associate producer of the Next Wave Festival.
“It’s fun. It’s interesting. It’s creative. I think it inspires people. I think the artists are getting a kick out of it, and hopefully, they’re gaining new fans.”
“We call them community gardens, but they’re much more than that. There is no gardening space in here. It’s a community space. It’s a free space. It’s all about just come in, hang out, use it for positive activities, and I think the arts really lends itself to that,” said Dyniewski. “For a lot of us, we live near the gardens ourselves and don’t necessarily use them. Now that we’ve discovered them, we want other people to discover them as well.”