The Ward Acres Community Garden Association hosted an informal gathering Sunday on the garden grounds, in which guests could celebrate the completion of artwork for the community.
“Meeting Place,” two mosaic benches, is a community funded public art project organized on behalf of The New Rochelle Council on the Arts, in conjunction with Ward Acres.
The afternoon event was held to thank all those who gave their continued support throughout the many stages of planning and development that saw the creation and installation of the artwork.
Located on the garden’s central pathway, the benches now act as the focal point of the garden, serving their intended purpose as “user friendly” works of art by providing a place for members of the community to sit and enjoy their surroundings.
The garden association's mission has been to improve the quality of life for the people of this community in many ways, not just through the gardening program, but also by involving local young people in arts education and appreciation.
Children from the Mascaro site of The Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle were asked to aid in the creation of the benches through a series of ceramic classes that taught participants how to design their own works of art through the process of making tiles that would be pieced together for display in one large mosaic.
“There are all these little stories within the tiles,” said Sarah Coble, a ceramic artist, and the visionary behind the mosaic design. “For some of these kids, the project really changed their lives. Becoming part of a group like this helped their confidence shoot up, and you could see how important it was to them to be able to share in this experience.”
There were approximately 50 students that took part in the program, which ran in a series of 10 classes for two groups of 25 children each. Coble, with the help of her two assistants, was able to incorporate educational lessons into the art program, that both enriched the student’s understanding of nature and encouraged their creative processes.
Michelle Zhang, a 13-year-old resident of New Rochelle, could not wait to find her tile among those of her peers.
“The tiger represents the year I was born in, and they are an animal that I really like, so I decided to base my tile off of that,” she said.
Gwen Clayton, director of programs for the Boys and Girls Club, looked on with great pride as she spoke about the art her students had created.
“The nice part about the benches is that one day these kids will be able to bring their children back here and say, ‘We helped make this,’ ” she said.