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Saturday
Jan052013

"God Gave Us Garlic. What Will We Give?" (Sarah Raven, SHH '12)

Sarah is the program director of our new mission initiative at Ascension in the Hill called GARLiC (Green Art Recreating Life in Communities).

"Members of GARLiC teach and create green art in urban areas to promote environmental awareness, artistic expression and poverty alleviation.   Instead of adopting a charity model where resources are held to be redistributed to others, we will emphasize that every member has resources necessary to the organization."

After college I joined Teach for America because I wanted to give back to public schools and help children in low income areas succeed. I taught elementary school in the South Bronx for four years. What I enjoyed most about teaching was the flexibility I was given to be creative; and the light in children’s eyes after they learned something that would enrich their lives forever. However, I disliked the chronic insistence that art and science should be sacrificed for more time on math and reading.

Art for art’s sake was a lost concept and I soon felt trapped between my convictions and standardized tests. 

In the South Bronx I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a group of people who made a point of claiming green spaces (with or without the city’s permission) and converted them into community gardens. One of the members of this group, Max, went “dumpster diving” with others to claim food that was recently thrown out by grocery stores. Chain grocery stores often toss food that is not actually rancid but has passed its “sell by” date. Max was a true “starving artist” who would ingest garlic pills every day to try to aid his health.

Teasing him I said, “You’re nothing but a garlic eating commie!” It was one of those things that just stuck and was eventually shortened to “garlic commie.” I was playfully accused of being a friend of garlic commies, and then eventually, a garlic commie myself.  I was not used to being around people who cared so much about the environment that they would flush their toilets infrequently and lock arms to protect a garden from being bulldozed by the city.

Although I was never able to fully adopt all of Max’s practices and beliefs, and most of my friends today are anything but communist, I was able to retain a tiny clove of garlic in my heart. Through the years, I never lost my passion for education, art, or urban renewal. 

Several months ago while searching the internet for new craft ideas, I learned about “upcycling,” a largely suburban middle class concept where one takes an item that was going to be thrown away, and creates something purposeful and beautiful.  I became consumed by the idea of taking upcycling and green art to poor urban areas.

Then I remembered my love for garlic. The symbolism of this small plant that is formed from an intricate grouping of smaller cloves, and can overwhelm the senses is provocative. GARLiC (Green Art Recreating Life in Communities) is a collective that embodies the health, strength, and God-given goodness of the garlic plant.  Members of GARLiC teach and create green art in urban areas to promote environmental awareness, artistic expression and poverty alleviation.

Our purpose is to use recycled materials to create eco-friendly art. By doing this GARLiC will also promote the following:

1) Helping to combat the amount of municipal waste, thereby helping the environment,

2) Encouraging a reduction in consumerism and conspicuous consumption by encouraging participants to give recycled gifts, and

3) Providing new skills and resources to racially and ethnically diverse people with moderate-low incomes in urban areas. 

Thus addressing multiple issues; environmental awareness, consumer spending, and a lack of urban art education.

In New Haven there are a number of museums, and art resources downtown, but almost nothing in the poorer and more remote neighborhoods. It is not incidental that the location of the GARLiC classes is not downtown New Haven, but in the Hill.

GARLiC is a member based organization; all students will be contributing members through a donation of one product. Members will also be asked to donate their time and talents to teach classes to others, help clean the studio space, or whatever the member can contribute.  Instead of adopting a charity model where resources are held to be redistributed to others, we will emphasize that every member has resources necessary to the organization.

Some materials will be provided to members, but people will be encouraged to bring products and containers from their home that they were going to throw away so that they can learn how to make use of the things they already have. The classes provided will range from the traditional; painting, drawing, jewelry making, to paper making, turning trash into useable products, and also an overview on environmental awareness.

I hope you join us in this green revolution, and try some of our GARLiC (it won’t make your breath smell). For more information about how you can contribute to the mission of GARLiC please visit at: http://garlicart.com/ and visit us on facebook!

Sarah M. Raven, a Saint Hilda's intern from 2012-2013, is a member of Ascension House in the Hill and the Program Director of GARLiC, a mission of Christ Church New Haven.

Reader Comments (1)

The group's aim is fantastic, this description is lucid and moving, and I pray that this whole concept spreads far and wide, taking root like the garlic that is so ubiquitous in our kitchen at home.

January 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFr. George Baum

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