CPS Teens to Transform a Vacant Lot in Uptown Into a 'Theater Garden'

By Adeshina Emmanuel on June 19, 2013 10:22am 

 Members of the Uptown community preparing a vacant lot that will soon become a community garden and outdoor theater space.
Members of the Uptown community preparing a vacant lot that will soon become a community garden and outdoor theater space.
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Facebook/48th Ward

UPTOWN — Chicago Public Schools students will revive a vacant lot in Uptown and transform it into a community garden and theater as part of a summer program endorsed by Ald. Harry Osterman (48th).

“We’re using it as a way to bring people together,” Osterman said.

The program, Green Scene, was founded in 2004 by Martie Sanders, an actress, educator and Master Gardener with the University of Illinois Extensions who will serve as the children's instructor this summer. Green Scene promotes gardening, arts education and the spirit of community by teaching communities "to work together to grow urban gardens and unearth their artistic impulses by experimenting [...] with storytelling, theater, music making, and dance.”

A nearly 4,000 square-foot vacant lot at 4919 N. Winthrop is at the center of the program’s efforts this summer, which will span five weeks from July 8-Aug. 13.

Teens who apply via After School Matters and are accepted to Green Scene, which pays a $420 stipend, will learn how to work the garden and build a performance space there. They will also devise a theatrical event to cap the program, “dedicating the theater garden’s lasting legacy to the community,” according to Green Scene.

Osterman said the idea for the garden stems in part from conversations about safety between his office and neighbors near the empty lot.

The discussions included talk of turning the blighted land into something the community can use in a positive way, said the alderman, whose North Side ward includes parts of Uptown, Edgewater and Andersonville.

“Our thought is to use it as a way to bring some of the neighbors together to talk about how we can help improve safety in the community, as well as work with some local youth," Osterman said.

On Saturday, members of the community turned out to help prepare the garden. They spread wood chips, raised garden beds, planted flowers and vegetables, and applied for their own garden beds.

“We had a real nice kickoff,” Osterman said.

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