"Please Touch Community Garden (SF), Interview & Video Site Tour with Rob Joyce, Director." By Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine
"Please Touch Community Garden (SF), Interview & Video Site Tour with Rob Joyce, Director." By Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine

In 2010, artist GK Callahan partnered with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired to embark on an ambitious project - the greening of a public eyesore into a multi-use community space that would be accessible to all, regardless of disability. Please Touch Community Garden has grown from that vision. Located on public land, the garden is an example of an interim-use solution, and also serves as a demonstration space for various urban agriculture strategies.

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First! Please enjoy a 12 minute video tour of the Garden with Director Rob Joyce!

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News is Next! from Garden email:

Community Design Process - Our New Logo

"GK and I are excited to launch a new endeavor to create a logo for Please Touch Garden. How will we capture all the joy and wonder of our space and community in one visual image? With a lot of help! We will begin the design process with an open meeting on Wednesday, May 22 from 4P to 7P at the garden. Everyone is invited to participate in this visioning session, and you are welcome to come and go as you please - come for 15 minutes, or the whole session. We look forward to a fun and enlightening start to the process."

Natural Building Workshop

"An outdoor kitchen has always been part of the design of Please Touch Garden, and we have also wanted to showcase some natural building techniques. We will be combining these two long-awaited elements at a Natural Building Workshop offered on Saturday, June 8 from 10A to 3P. Please check out our website at http://pleasetouchgarden.org for more information about this and other upcoming events."

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Interview with Rob by Willi

What do you mean when you say that you are "creating an ecosystem" at the Garden?

An ecosystem is the interaction of organisms within an environment - for successful design, it is important to always be considering life, interactions, and context. In the urban context of Please Touch Garden, we are not only considering the interactions between elements of the natural world - hummingbirds, pineapple sage, healthy soil, rainwater. We are cultivating a human community, as well. How can we encourage positive interactions between the visually impaired, visiting families, City Hall staffers, and patients from the methadone clinic down the block?

Did you find that the site had bad soil in the beginning? How do you produce "good soil?"

A building used to fill the entire site, just like the lots on either side, so there really was no "soil" to speak of - just sandy demolition debris and whatever else that had blown into the site over the years. That whole area around City Hall used to be the marshy Hayes River, so we're basically standing on urban infill. Our strategy was to sheet mulch wherever we planned to plant - a two foot base of cardboard, Recology compost, and mulch. On top of that, we created berms from soil we built on site through hot composting. Since we controlled what went into it, we could be sure there were no toxins, and that it was rich in organic material.

Are you running out of space? Is there master Garden plan?

No, there is still space, including vertical space. The phrase "master garden plan" sounds exhausting and unsexy.

You are inviting teachers to run classes. What types of subject matter will turn you on?

We are exploring a number of ways to increase the public access to the space, and having it available as an educational space is one of those activation strategies. I encourage people to come forward with their ideas, whether it's leading a composting workshop or holding a bingo tournament. The important thing is that they are acting as good stewards of the space and that access is being increased rather than restricted.

The garden is a green flowing island in a concrete Civic Center sea. What does it symbolize to you? And to the community?

We set out to positively transform this urban space, to create a place that is physically nurturing and spiritually inspiring. As we invited this intersection of art and life, the natural and the urban ended up meeting. As we say, it's a place "to see a world you otherwise could not see."

How is the garden an innovation incubator?

That sounds very hip - should I start using that?

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Connections -

Please Touch Community Garden is open every Wednesday: 11am-5pm
165 Grove Street @ Van Ness Av.
San Francisco (right across the street from City Hall)

Please Touch Community Garden is a Member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting services to artists. Intersection is San Francisco's oldest alternative arts space, presenting groundbreaking works in the literary, performing, visual and interdisciplinary arts. Visit. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of $25 or more today - just go to this donation page and choose Please Touch Community Garden from the list of projects.