Some friends and I had intended to see an exhibition of an artist I like, but the venue was closed. So instead one of my friends asked if I’d ever seen the Carpenter Art Garden. I hadn’t. So he took me to Carpenter Street, in Binghampton, a block away from where I went to Lester Jr. High School, back in the 70s, during the first year of busing in Memphis. Lester Jr. High no longer exists, but there is an elementary school on the property now.
Lester will always have a special place in my heart because it helped rid me of much of the racism that I’d grown up as a White child, helped me make friends with Black children and my Black teachers gave me a broader perspective on my city and my world.
Carpenter Street is in an underserved area of town, but there is a grassroots arts and culture organization that’s bringing magic to it.
As we drove around Memphis — not just the Binghampton area, but in so many places where the city has had blight and neglect for years, decades — I said we needed more green spaces, more change, more building and growing.
Imagine my delight upon finding this lovely street and neighborhood organization — growing, changing and creating art. Their website says:
The Carpenter Art Garden partners with neighborhood children and adults, as well as local artists to transform a blighted lot into a place of beauty. Each Tuesday volunteers work with approximately 70 children on permanent art installations, take home art projects and the tending to the garden boxes. The space is an actual garden of artwork.
As our garden continues to grow, the Purple House opened in September 2014. This a space for our programs to flourish during the cold winter months. At the Purple House we offer tutoring, small group art lessons, mentoring and clubs every day after school.
They also have a community bike shop, to help rebuild and repair bikes.
In 2016, they started work on the Mimosa Mosaic Garden, a property at the corner of Carpenter and Mimosa they are turning into a park.
This is the centerpiece:
Across the street, there is a community garden, where some restaurants have signed up for organic herbs and produce grown by community members.
The area was a bit difficult to navigate in a wheelchair and we were pressed for time, but I look forward to going back and getting more pictures. It’s a wonder how one act of beauty inspires another. I can’t wait to see how the garden grows.
If you’d like to read about their five year anniversary, there’s a great article from 2017 here at High Ground News:
Things are happening in Memphis. And will continue to if we keep watering those seeds of creativity. You can donate to Carpenter Art Garden here.
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