Hartford, CT

Contact Name
Carol Padberg
Project Dates
2013-ongoing
Eighteen months ago KNOX and artist Carol Padberg decided to come together to unite art and community gardening. Neither party knew exactly what the outcome would be. However, we each felt it would be mutually beneficial. Since then, a wave of new initiatives have come about: from a major public art commission, to the development of a new Urban Roots educational program and director, and several small scale art projects by created by the gardeners for their gardens -- and even short film (in progress but will be done by June). We have a fantastic working relationship and we want to share what we have learned with others who are interested in how artists in residence can be imbedded in non-art contexts.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
1. Create art in community gardens
2. Expand community awareness of KNOX community gardens
3. Support the gardeners creative expression and pride in place
4. Beautify the city
5. Implement education programs about gardening and ecology
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
At times one goal or another takes precedence but the goals are pretty much consistent.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Connecticut Office of the Arts, DECD; provided two Art Leadership Creative Placemaking Grants (4K) and (20K).
Greater Hartford Arts Council, provided a grant for an educational position and project support for art in the gardens.
The KNOX foundation provides in kind support and the board provides project support at times depending on needs.
The Community Gardeners provide time, audience, participation, help.
Local corporations contribute to garden clean up days in the spring.
The artist provides project leadership and labor and in kind contributions. Some work is paid through grants, some is volunteer.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The Artist in Residence project relates directly to the core of KNOX' mission: Using horticulture as a catalyst for community engagement, KNOX forges partnerships between residents, businesses and government, providing leadership to build greener, stronger, healthier and more beautiful neighborhoods in Hartford. The Artist in Residence has allowed creativity and the arts to enter into the mix in surprising and joyful ways. This in turns brings in new audiences/community members, new public support and new sources for funding.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The resident artist was aware of the rich tradition of art in community gardens on the west coast, and in NYC, but noticed the community gardens in Hartford were very austere. Her own artistic practice involved agriculture and art so this was a logical step. There was an exhibition at the Queens Museum in New York called Art Util that was also an inspiration.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
1. All parties sit down and meet. Is there a "fit"?
2. Outline some general expectations.
3. Start small: our small start was a poster of the community garden system that KNOX could use to get the word out about community gardens, and as a fundraising tool (they are a successful auction item).
4. Get funding for a modest larger project that builds community: we received a 4000. grant to have the artist create textile art patio umbrellas under which community conversations were held. These community conversations at the gardens helped determine the nature of the next larger project.
5. Complete the project.
6. Work in incrementally larger ways as needed, if desired. Or, if the alliance has been mutually beneficial, but it is time to part ways, now would be a good time. We decided to keep going.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Now we are no longer starting from scratch, so it takes less time. The effort we put into building our relationship has paid off, so our meetings are sometimes shorter. We can decide more over email.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
1. Getting funding is very competitive and that was a major hurdle we had to clear.
2. There is a lot of "bridging" between communities that happens. It is not an obstacle if you know how, but could be an obstacle if you did not know how to take care of relationships and communicate well in various settings.
3. Another potential obstacle is that for the artist this kind of work can be between genres: is it Community Art? Social engagement? Public Art? Performance? Textile Art? The artist has used all these strategies but none of the genres totally fit. Flexibility is key.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Listening.
Knowing community organizing skills (A la Saul Alintsky).
Viewing the process as the art as much as the outcome.
A sense of humor.
Persistence.

What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Ask the artist to be clear about motivations, and ask the artist what interpersonal skills they bring, make sure they have the skills.
2. Make sure the organization wants an artist in residence. It may sound great, but do they really have the capacity for the process involved?T3. 3. Together draw up a set of guidelines before you do anything together (we will provide examples).
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
We are in the process of creating a public art project that includes an Adinkra Gate and Cob Oven and Water Catchment systems in one of the community gardens. This will be done by June (the gate is being fabricated this winter, the cob oven installed in May). This brings a good business contract to the ornamental metal shop that is fabricating the gate. It also will contribute a huge boost to pride of place for the neighborhood. We anticipate a rippling out of the positive effects of taking an area that has been neglected and making it beautiful. We hired an educational coordinator.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We are a good model of some best practices:
Build the relationships as your foundation
Use effective fundraising to get start up project funding
Start small
Follow up with a larger project grant once you show you have a successful working relationship
Ask the community what THEY want, don't make decisions for them
Model a new way of being an artist in the world, less ego and isolation -- more listening and applied creativity for the greater good.

How did you measure this success or progress?
Later we will apply formal measures. We are still in the "build mode" right now. We expect to have some economic indicators, some social metrics for participation, etc.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The artist is using this as a model for "embedded artists" that could be used in a variety of settings. She has done work in other types of workplaces and settings since then that were unexpected (such as doing an interactive ecoart project in a corporate setting).