The Garden of Arts and Healing

2/12/2016

Spring 2016

Subaru Brings Art to the Edgewood Center for Children and Families

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “All my hurts my garden spade can heal,” a bit of wisdom that the Edgewood Center for Children and Families in San Francisco has taken to heart. Founded as an orphanage in 1851 by a group of women alarmed by the number of children orphaned during the California Gold Rush, the Edgewood Center now provides behavioral and mental health services to over 7,000 youth and their families in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

A Healing Garden

“Many youths come to us so emotionally shut down that they will not even speak, and traditional talk therapy is initially not able to reach them,” says Gregg Biggs, Major Gifts Officer of the center. This is where gardening came into it. Sally Gotcher, a volunteer at the center, established the garden, which consists of twelve raised beds covering just under an acre. In 2011, the center thought to use the garden as an outdoor classroom, utilizing the seed-to-table philosophy. “We look holistically at youth wellness,” says Biggs. “An improved sense of health includes a healthy diet that supports sustainability. We consider the garden to be part of the larger healing process and positive transition into adulthood.

Edgewood Center for Children and Families
Edgewood Center for Children and Families
The gardens at the Edgewood Center provides an outdoor learning environment.
The gardens at the Edgewood Center provides an outdoor learning environment.
Left to right: The gardens at the Edgewood Center provides an
outdoor learning environment.
 

Healing Through Art

The garden also found a connection with Edgewood Center's Expressive Arts Program, “which approaches our work with the youth as if they were at a conservatory,” says Biggs. More than just a setting for residents seeking to explore their feelings and find healing through art, the garden provides elements – leaves, lavender, sand, flowers – for the creations themselves. A grant from Subaru helps put high-quality art supplies in the hands of the youth at the center.

Artwork done by a student at the Edgewood Center for Children and Families.
Artwork done by a student at the Edgewood Center for
Children and Families.

The children work in the garden, nurture it, and connect with their surroundings. This integrated approach helps these youths to heal, rediscover themselves, and find a better path in life through creativity. One of the center's teenagers gained such confidence from this process that she volunteered to create a painting for the silent auction at the annual fundraising fair. This was her first public exhibition, and she spoke to an audience of several hundred guests who were very interested in knowing about her personal work. “Further, she got satisfaction knowing that the proceeds from the sale of her work went back to the Expressive Arts Program so that it will help future students have an experience similar to hers,” says Biggs.  “She was thinking not about her own personal gain from selling the art, but about wanting to help other teens.” She now plans to continue with formal art training after she completes high school. 

Learn more about the Edgewood Center for Children and Families.