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Growing to Green award garden: CAPAcity garden (3)

  • Subject: [cg] Growing to Green award garden: CAPAcity garden (3)
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 19:33:56 -0800 (PST)

Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Sunday, January 29, 2006
(forwarded by Bill Dawson)

by Robin Chenoweth

A rubbish-strewn lot gives way to an urban sanctuary 

Some say he has magic fingers because everything he
touches blossoms and bears fruit. 
Dominic Carlisle was 18 when he became the custodian
of CAPAcity garden, an enclave of color, life and art
set within the drab urban maze that borders 1002 E.
Livingston Ave. In October 2001, the lot next to the
youth arts complex was little more than a thruway for
drug dealers and vagrants. 

We found a lot of bottles, nails, syringes, things
like that," said Carlisle, now 22 and a youth leader
at Central Community House. 

But when he and other neighborhood volunteers began
picking up trash, the effect was almost immediate. 

As we were digging up dirt and moving soil, kids
would hang around watching," said Jackie Calderone,
director of education for CAPAcity, the youth arm of
the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.
Then some kids would help shovel the dirt. In that
tragic fall (after the Sept. 11 attack), we created a
sense of community." 

Carlisle had always loved gardening, but, even within
him, something came to life as he coaxed the flowers
and bushes. 

The hulking 6-foot-3-inch former high-school defensive
end used a boombox to broadcast Chopin and Bach across
the garden. He watered plants for almost three hours
each day, lugging 5-gallon pails from the centers

This was a labor of love," he said. I had a lot of
time to reflect." 

As he weeded and pruned, Carlisle drew parallels to
his life. Insects plaguing the Boston ivy, for
example, represented the troubles eating at him. 

Being able to nurture that plant and bring it back
to health showed that my life will be better." 
Before long, the garden burgeoned. Sunflowers towered
over the roof. 

Ornamental grasses shot up 15 feet. Asiatic lilies,
butterfly bush, gladiolas, herbs and hollyhocks

As plants grew, the space became a canvas for creative
expression. Artists painted murals on the walls facing
the garden. Young poets penned verse next to the
paintings on cinder-block walls: Now appreciate the
trees, the grass, feel the wind, embrace life." 

People receiving counseling at the Just for Today drug
recovery center next door can take contemplative
strolls through the garden. 

Everything has a meaning there," said Gail Burnett,
manager of the recovery center. When we were
(addicted), we never saw anything, never felt
anything. Its so good to walk past something and have
a feeling about it. Thats what happens in that
garden. Its like a spiritual awakening."

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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