More Gardens, More Compassion, More Memories

by MJ

When the pandemic hit, I feared that I would be missing out on an internship experience for the summer. My position began remotely, which was a bit underwhelming at first; I began my internship with outreach and donation emails. As an art intern, it was difficult to create for the organization remotely, especially because they value handcrafted work over digital. I started working in March, and by June, my supervisors decided it was safe enough for me to come help on the organization’s property in upstate New York. I had not left my apartment since March, and was very excited to be given a chance to get out into nature. At the farm, I aided More Gardens in setting up a socially distant summer camp for underserved children in the Bronx, and painting the space in order to bring color to an otherwise dull situation. As one of the main goals was for us to disconnect from the digital world, and connect to nature, I do not have many pictures, but I have many memories of my time at the farm, and in helping to safely run the summer camp in July.

Painting a toolbox at More Gardens

The children who attended the summer camp had contracted the virus within the first couple months of the pandemic, and hadn’t had access to nature in months. To sing for them around a fire, teach them about the land, the plants, and give them herbal remedies for respiratory ailments was an amazing experience. It was gratifying to see the difference we could make.

The painted toolbox at More Gardens

On an average day, I would wake up from my tent on the property, just outside the woods, help mix clay paints to use on communal spaces, make some oatmeal for the company dog, Starshine, and help to install the compost toilet, which was a continuous project from the time I arrived until I left. I also worked on a variety of art projects, including visual labels for the kitchen area, so that language barriers would not inhibit future guests from being able to navigate the space. I painted a large toolbox for a garden area, where the camp families were able to huddle in their pods (or families) each morning, to check on their medical needs and have their morning prayers outside. The pictures included depict my process of painting the toolbox.

More Gardens Fund began as an activist group in 1999, in an effort to protect the community gardens which were in danger of being shut down. They have always fought for their neighborhoods, mainly low income neighborhoods in New York City. Their greatest tool has been art since their founding, and to be their artistic lead was an awesome experience. Having written environmentally educational music for children as well as having helped in planning for a colorful and expressive post pandemic future, I can honestly say my experience with MGF is one I will never forget, and forever be grateful for.