OSS#MH is an interactive public art project and community garden made in collaboration with residents of the Marble Hill Houses—a public housing development in the Bronx—that serves as a participatory platform to promote healthy living and community empowerment through explorations of residents’ shared histories and cultural heritage. After more than a year in development, following dozens of interviews with residents, regular meetings with the tenants association and community partners, and door-to-door outreach to each of the complex’s 1,682 apartments, in May 2017 OSS#MH opened 11 new garden beds, one reflecting each of the Marble Hill complex’s 11 towers, which serve as centerpieces for a series of public gardening and food education programming that will activate the site throughout 2017.
OSS#MH originated in November 2015 when members of the Marble Hill Garden Project (MHGP), led by founding member and project manager Jacki Fisher, were in search of ideas and partners to promote greater participation in their work among Marble Hill Houses residents, attended a daylong community workshop led by the activist/artist Mary Miss and City as Living Laboratory (CaLL). At the workshop they were introduced to Juanli Carrión, the artist, educator, and activist whose Outer Seed Shadow (OSS) series of public sculptures take the form of geopolitical community gardens and translate communities’ personal stories into living art projects. MHGP and Juanli quickly recognized their shared vision and OSS#MH was born. With the support of NYC Parks, NYCHA, Marble Hill Tenants Association, Marble Hill Community Center and community stakeholders such as Montefiore Medical Center, the garden has taken as its mission the promotion of healthy food and lifestyle choices among participants, as the Marble Hill population, like many low-income communities in New York City, is disproportionately affected by a range of health issues while enduring limited access to fresh, healthy food choices in the immediate Marble Hill Houses vicinity.
OSS#MH personally engages residents via the welcoming process of gardening while likewise advocating for greater community participation and activism. For OSS#MH, residents from each of the 11 towers at the Marble Hill Houses have been interviewed at-home and asked to recount their individual stories of cultural adaptation, coexistence, and personal history. At the end of each interview, each participant was asked to name an edible plant of their choice, which is now one of many planted in the garden’s raised beds, which will serve as the stage for a series of weekly, all-ages workshops with local residents, community groups, institutions, and schools, whose participants will learn about the garden’s origins and also perform the necessary care to ensure the plants’ growth and survival. Workshops will address subjects such as promoting good eating habits, how to grow your own fresh produce, understanding environmental (and specifically food) justice, the importance of our diverse cultural heritage, and how to be an active, engaged member of your community. At the end of the growing season, the garden’s produce will be harvested as part of a communal meal to celebrate the Marble Hill community.
OSS#MH is a project make in conjuction with.
NYC Parks Green Thumb and Marble Hill Garden Project.
OSS#MH is sponsored, in part, by Citizens Committee & City as Living Laboratory.
With the collaboration of Marble Hill Cornerstone Community Center, Riverdale Neighborhood House, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and Big Reuse.