project leader
Emily C
Black Street
(East Liberty )
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the project

Art in the Garden is OMA Pittsburgh’s first program for youth. Art in the Garden was founded six years ago in Borland Garden, an urban green space in East Liberty, with the intention to create top-notch free summer programming to meet the needs of underserved youth. While youth engage a variety of activities—from West African drumming and dance, to creating herbal tinctures, to hand-building with clay—all of our programming is centered around investing in the resiliency and social and emotional development of Pittsburgh’s youth.Research shows that youth thrive when they can recognize and express their emotions in healthy ways: their emotional intelligence and social skills increase, anxiety and depression decrease, they are less likely to bully others, they have better academic performance, and they have stronger leadership skills. We believe that supporting the social and emotional development of youth—which is supported by youth developing tools to process and heal from trauma—helps to create a healthy, inclusive, and equitable society.Above all, Art in the Garden seeks to enable youth to grow in their understanding of connectedness to themselves, each other, and our earth. This program supports youth in their knowing—in deep and lasting ways—the interconnectedness of all living beings, and the ways in which we are all whole and all belong.

Professional Development: Our vision is for Pittsburgh to become a model for best practices in social & emotional learning and in trauma informed care & resilience.In order to support this vision, we at OMA Pittsburgh hold professional development seminars for Art in the Garden educators, community partners, staff, and others working with youth. This work supports adults in developing mindfulness practices, strengthening conflict transformation skills, building skills that foster supportive relationships with youth, and supporting youth in developing resilience and social and emotional intelligence.

Community Partners: In addition to the core set of daily activities and free play model we have community partner organizations who provide a unique learning experience for youth. We are working to secure community partners for the summer of 2019! Stay tuned...

the steps

Our Goals for 2019: The money we're raising this winter through ioby will support the first two initiatives: 

Shelter…one of life’s necessities.We are raising money to build two shelters for Art in the Garden, one at Borland Garden in East Liberty and one at the African Healing Garden in Larimer. When rain is hard or wind is strong, our tarps have proven (sometimes quite dramatically!) insufficient. We want to have a reliable space for our youth, no matter the weather. These shelters will make it possible for us to hold programing in inclement weather, which is essential for families needing reliable childcare, and enable us to extend programing into the cooler seasons. These shelters will keep us dry on rainy days as we dance and drum, create art, look at bugs and dirt under microscopes, meditate, and eat breakfast and lunch together. Thoughtful design: The shelters will be built from natural materials and have green roofs which sustain a variety of plants and invertebrates and provide habitat for various bird species. By acting as a stepping stone habitat for migrating birds they can link species together that would otherwise be fragmented.

Toilets.We will need a toilet with a small shelter for each site. We are looking into the possibilities of composting toilets for the sites. Pittsburgh has a huge combined sewer overflow problem: when a combined sewer system (a system that carries both stormwater and wastewater in the same pipe) becomes overwhelmed, and overflows into the nearest waterway. This can occur during periods of rain or snowmelt when the volume of water inside the sewer pipe exceeds the capacity of the system to transport it to the treatment plant. These overflows contain untreated human waste, bacteria, trash, and debris.There is a great need for green infrastructure to address this problem, and community gardens can be leaders by adopting and promoting them to the public.

Expanding Programming to the African Healing Garden. In the summer of 2019, Art in the Garden is expanding to include the African Healing Garden in Larimer, which is headed by the incredible Betty Lane. We plan to hold programming at the African Healing Garden one day a week (Mondays) for 8-10 weeks this summer and expand it the following summer. Youth will be able to attend a camp at a single site (Borland Garden on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays or the African Healing Garden on Mondays) or at both sites. Camp runs from 9-1 and includes free breakfast and lunch from Earthen Vessels.

Expanding Programming to youth ages 11 and up. Art in the Garden is working to develop a curriculum for youth ages 11+. This curriculum builds on the model we used last year with youth-interns, providing training and support to youth as they helped with daily camp activities. This programing would include a designated teacher to lead the youth, activities around food justice, including growing and distributing food, leadership training, and social and emotional development including the development of conflict transformation skills based on the curriculum from the Path of Freedom. 

Curriculum Development. We have a great team working on curriculum for the upcoming summer. One of our team members, Sten Carlson, is combining concepts from social emotional learning and trauma informed care with innovative growing practices from permaculture and agroforestry to develop curriculum that engages students in a solutions-based approach to global warming. On the ground, the curriculum observes trees and other perennial plants "guilds" that mutually support one another, improving ecosystem health and increasing biodiversity while producing food and other products useful to humans. These systems of mutual support and abundance then become analogs for the social-emotional realities of students' lives. Students develop empathy and sensitivity through working with plants; they learn how plants grow more resilient and adaptive in guilds via cooperation, sharing of resources and increased diversity. 

why we're doing it

Youth and their family members have expressed both a desire and need for expanded programing.

We believe that when we grow in our understanding of connectedness to ourselves, each other, and our earth, we are able build a better neighborhood.

We believe systems thinking in conjunction with social and emotional learning has the power to help youth as they work to reframe untrue and distorted or limiting beliefs and that this can create space for the positive transformation of self, family, and community.

We believe that all people deserve access to healthy food.

We believe all people have a right to easily access and enjoy green space.

We believe children need nature and we believe in the transformative power and healing potential of nature.



The first phase of our fundraising for this year is to raise money to build a shelter for our outdoor classroom. This shelter will be made out of natural materials.


Rot-resistant wood for round structure: floor, posts, roof.

Living roof. 

Exterior space on structure for artist to engage in creative project with youth. Supplies and funding to support artist. 

Fold-down counters for youth to use for cooking, canning, and art projects. 


Funding to support adminstrative staff prior to the start of the summer program for hiring teachers, building collaborations with local artists and meditation practioners, developing curriculum.


Project Subtotal = 


ioby Platform Fee 


ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%)


Total to raise on ioby =




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