For years, I have wanted to find a way to make the youth garden space at Clagett Farm feel more inviting and energized for the young participants of the Farm Youth Initiative program. A mural seemed like a good first step in making that a reality.
Thanks to our friends at Common Good City Farm, we were introduced to Mindy Mitchell, who not only made the beautiful signage around our small garden but also worked with our staff to create the mural illustration.
Then a year went by, then another and maybe another…I can’t even remember – but no group, no individual, nobody was interested in making a mural on the side of a shed. And so the beautiful illustration just sat in a file.
But then, through a friend of a friend (you know how that works) a connection was made and our team was put in contact with Katherine Elkins, the Visual Arts Teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria. After looking for years for a community group, the perfect person just fell into our lap! The partnership couldn’t have been more perfect. The high school would benefit from an exciting off-site art project while learning about the work that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Capital Area Food Bank do at Clagett Farm. And the FYI program benefited exponentially by having a beautiful mural painted by volunteers.
Ms. Elkins decided to project the image onto the shed for students to trace, so with numerous orange extension cords snaking their way around basil and parsley plants we found a power source. We used a combination of rain barrels and wooden boards to balance the projector and laptop. Of course the “best place” for this balancing act ended up being directly in the middle of our Pizza Garden.
But alas, no luck, it was too bright a day for the projection to actually be visible. And that is where the really impressive work began. Ms. Elkins immediately set to work organizing a few students who would work with her to make the freehand sketch, while I took the other students on a tour of the farm.
By the time we returned from the tour the image outline was up. The students were phenomenal workers! While one team worked on the mural others took turns eating their lunch, catching up on other class assignments and exploring the farm. Within a few hours the painting was nearly complete.
A few weeks later a handful of students and Ms. Elkins came back to the farm to add a few finishing touches and voila! The project that took years to get off the ground was done!
Not enough can be said about Ms. Elkins’ leadership. Without her extra effort in so many areas none of this would have been possible. The students were thoroughly inspiring – they are talented artists, joyful individuals and cooperative teammates. My day with them was thoroughly a delight.
Ms. Elkins and her class made the garden space at Clagett Farm a warm and inviting space for the nearly 200 children that used that garden this summer through the FYI program.