In Houston's historic Third Ward, the Alabama Gardens has grown from a modest effort to transform a neglected lot into a thriving community space since its inception in 1985. Founded by Verious and Voyall Smith alongside a group of friends, this garden was established to address the critical need for fresh produce in an area marked as a "food desert," providing vital nourishment to the community with a variety of seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, okra and peppers.
Over the years, the garden has seen a change in leadership, with Terry Garner, a longtime member, taking over as coordinator in 2021. His dedication has been instrumental in continuing the garden's legacy of community service and environmental stewardship. The garden's development led to partnerships with figures like Dr. Bob Randal and organizations such as Urban Harvest, enhancing its impact in fostering sustainable community practices.
In collaboration with Urban Harvest, The "Soul Food Garden Art Project," engaged local residence in a series of workshops to co-create a mosaic mural, welcoming visitors into the Alabama Garden. Kim Perry, Director of Garden Education for Urban Harvest, played a pivotal role by coordinating the inclusion of our workshops under their program schedule, thereby opening up these learning opportunities to a wider audience of garden enthusiasts and Urban Harvest supporters, all in support of the Alabama Gardens. Participants in these workshops gained hands-on experience in mosaic-art making, contributing to the garden's aesthetic while equipping themselves for future artistic endeavors. This inspires a sense of wellness and environmental stewardship within the community.
Funded by the City of Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance, this project engaged community members in the art of mosaics to promote healthier lifestyles through gardening. The goal is to bring the community together to raise awareness of the benefits of the Alabama Gardens, and to use public art to help transform a local civic space into a cultural and artistic destination .
Alabama Gardens continues to invite community participation and celebrate its achievements, like the upcoming Monthly Meetup and Annual Garden Luncheon" event December 2, from 9am to 12pm. This event is a testament to the community's resilience and commitment to shared goals. As we continue nurturing Houston's oldest community garden, we look forward to more initiatives that integrate art and gardening, strengthening our community bonds through public art.