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Community Safety Fund Grantees

Carpenter Art Garden: Growing Food and Creating Art to Prevent Gun Violence

As the Executive Director of Carpenter Art Garden, I deal in “chaos.” That’s my joking, sincerest brief description of the busy-ness of the work of bringing people together to grow food, create art and invest in ourselves and our community. The majority of my day is filled with the pursuit of community partnerships, neighbors, Binghampton friends, and my favorite—arts programming for children and teens.

Before this, I did mission work overseas for seven years, traveling to remote parts of the world and working with underserved communities in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Haiti, and Honduras. I learned and observed that poverty and lack of access to basic human needs exacerbate issues such as lack of education, hunger, and high crime rates. And I recognized that the same issues were happening in our communities here in Memphis.

Memphis is severely impacted by gun violence, and we have one of the highest gun homicide rates in the United States. Not to mention Memphis is ranked as the 5th most violent city in the U.S. by Forbes.

I am an artist. And I can only respond as such. I’m always considering the essentials of art as a tool and what it can do, even in the face of poverty and its symptoms. We’re engaging the community through mosaic tile-making for Tillman Sculpture Park and continuing our vision of preparing our students for bright futures ahead.

When you’re actively choosing to make something beautiful with your hands such as a painting or a mosaic tile, you’re actively choosing AGAINST something else. Eventually, the act of creating becomes a skill, then a contribution to an environment that leans closer towards beauty, creativity, and art that your hands helped to shape.

I believe that this is the sort of prevention of violence that we are seeking: Simply being artists and multiplying this effect in our community.

After meeting with the chair of our local chapter of Moms Demand Action, Mary Powers, and several conversations, we walked the site and discussed possibilities and determined that art-making was an incredible fit for this project because Carpenter Art Garden already had a mosaic tile-making program, but we hadn’t broken ground on Tillman Sculpture Park yet. We talked about site cleanup and identified where the structures would go. We corresponded until we were sure that this project was the one we wanted to submit.

When community members come together and care for the community as we are through this project, it is a reminder of what is profoundly important—taking care of our neighborhoods and our neighbors. And when we’re working together, we are allies and co-laborers. Projects such as cleaning and greening the neighborhood, I believe, instill a sense of pride in place and admiration for what we call “home.” And nobody wants a violent home.

I know our work serves as both a prevention and an intervention to factors that contribute to gun violence. That’s why we’re so proud to participate in National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange: Orange is a color that’s hard to ignore. To me, this day is a moment marked with a loud color and call to action against gun violence.

And we’d love for you to join us! We have organic vegetable gardens! We have a community bike club. We have creative programming. And we need you with us as volunteers, supporters or however you’d like to help: Come grow with us!

Wear Orange

During National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend, we join together to demand a future free from gun violence once and for all.

Join Us

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