Grab your Hoes and Pitchforks!

A lovely day in the southern paradise of the Dakotas.  It finally got above freezing, and we’ll have a couple more days where it may reach the forties (and also may rain).  Maybe I’ll finally get my sidewalks cleared off of the accumulated ice and snow, so I can have I nice, smooth skating rink when we get that freezing rain.

I hate using salt on my sidewalks because I hate adding salt run-off to the soil, but I’m also sensitive to the needs of walkers, being one myself.  I’ll never understand why that one particular fraternity house full of young men on Main Street can never get it together to clear their sidewalks.

Went to a fairly sparsely attended Arts Council meeting last night in the basement of the Arts Center.  I was not surprised that it was poorly attended, as the meeting was called by placing letters on the tables at the last event.  Most of the crowd of folks upstairs at the art opening didn’t realize what serious issues were being discussed in the basement’s bowels–to wit: the proposed sale of the building and adjoining lot to finance the purchase of a newer, small building.

I made my own impassioned speech to save the community garden on that adjoining lot, and to my immense pleasure, that sentiment was echoed by the other members present.   My main point was that even if the properties were sold, first consideration should be given to those purchasers who would make a good faith effort to keep the gardens intact rather than razing them for development of another kind.  That consideration would spare a lot of hard feelings toward the Arts Council by those individuals and organizations who have helped build and support the gardens in their first year.

But, in the end, what I learned at the meeting was a lot of nothing–and I mean simply that there is no real plan in place or in progress as yet (except that the VAAC Board did spend $500 of its members’ monies to expedite a purchase option on another building without first asking the members how they felt about such an expenditure–naughty, naughty!).  There’s going to have to be a lot more dissemination of information to the membership before any move (even a figurative one) is made.  You see, there are a lot of people in this town who see the current Church of the Arts as embodying the spirit of the arts in Vermillion, for better or worse.  There are also a lot of people who still live in this town who helped to make the purchase of the old St. Agnes church a reality–thus giving the previously-nomadic Arts Council (what they thought was) a permanent home.

But learning a whole lot of nothing made me realize that without any sort of real plan for a property sale in place, the community garden cannot sit on its hands and wait for one.  Our best defense is a good offense, as they say, and for us that means making the garden an even more integral part of the community.  If we wait on news, good or bad, we run a much higher risk of the garden being seen as a messy liability rather than a beautiful, growing (literally and figuratively) part of the Vermillion landscape.  I’m sure there’ll be some disappointed housing developers who have had their eyes on that lot for a long time, but try displacing a bunch of gardeners with shovels and rakes from their produce and flower patches with the goodwill of the community behind them.  I wouldn’t touch that one with a fifty foot unkinkable garden hose.

Of course, I’m not advocating a hostile takeover.  We want to be a part of the Arts Council, and we also want the Arts Council to recognize us as an integral part of itself.  We want them to see that we are an asset to their organization and to the community–that we promote many of the same goals they do and we attract new members to their fold.

A garden isn’t built in one season, and a “community garden of the arts”–one that also proposes to include sculpture and hand-made paving stones and other forms of art–takes time to develop and take shape.  We’ve already had some great compliments from the community at large about how we’re transforming an ugly, weedy lot into a productive and beautiful space.  I, for one, think it an only get better, and I am willing to take a chance and try.


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