CCS art and urban farming projects near completion


banglatown2Ali Elisabeth Lapetina discusses her project
Last summer, Ali Elisabeth Lapetina (’13, PH) visited Banglatown (an area of Detroit north of Hamtramck, also known as No Ham) to take photos of Burnside Farm and the surrounding Bengali immigrant gardens. Her frequent visits allowed her to get to the know the people within the community, and she soon recognized a need not being met among the women living there. So Lapetina jumped at the chance to help meet this need by collaborating as an artist teacher on CCS’s recent art/urban farming initiatives.

“I was in this neighborhood all the time – learning about the people who lived there,” said Lapetina. “I noticed young men had spaces to play cricket or board games, but there was not a space for young women outside of their homes… Through GROW, I created Women of Banglatown— a gathering space for young women from the Bengali community to experiment with gardening while using art and photography as a tool of empowerment.”

The Women of Banglatown is one of eight art and urban farming initiatives underway between CCS and the local community. Two of the projects have been implemented by Kt Andresky and students at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies (HFA: SCS), the College’s charter school. Six others were conceptualized by CCS students/alumni through the College’s GROW class taught by CCS instructor Kate Daughdrill and led by senior fine arts major Mary Eddy.

“During my freshman year, I was part of an independent study (with Professor Mira Burack) that involved urban gardening and dealt with a lot of the same issues as this class,” said Eddy. “I have also worked with Kate before on similar projects. My interest is centered more in the metaphors proposed by gardening— the relationships between plants and humans and their motivations.

GreenhouseStudents being introduced to their bountiful garden and their composting stations.
“Helping lead this class has given me more insight into what goes into teaching. We’ve had to be flexible and often amend our carefully planned schedules. The challenges faced when working with others are hard to foresee, but problem solving our individual garden-partner to student relationships has been beneficial as a group. I feel fortunate to have been able to participate in the projects and to have had this experience as one of my final classes.”

The College received financial support for the art/urban farming initiatives last fall as the first-year recipient of the Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) grant. CCS was awarded $25,000, with each of the art/urban farming projects receiving $1,200 to cover the costs of materials and other expenses.

The Ford Motor Company awards the Ford C3 grant to colleges and universities to help support students in designing and developing tangible community projects that address critical local needs, helping the community become a more sustainable place to work and live. The challenge is “designed to empower students to make a difference in the world, bringing their unique perspective on what it takes to be a sustainable community.”

In his Ford C3 proposal, Mikel Bresee, director of CCS Community Arts Partnership (CAP), addressed community issues of vacant land and blight and suggested filling the open space with public art projects and urban gardens. Rather than focus on one large scale project that involved considerable technological expense, he suggested using the money to fund several smaller projects that would be quick to implement, easy to replicate and harness the “raw creativity” of the students. So far, he has been impressed with how the students have embraced the project.

“An unfamiliar place brings out so much of my creative energy,” said Lapetina. “I’ve learned to continue to stay curious. Sharing an idea can inspire individuals to work together and grow something out of nothing. Although we have received funding through the Ford College Community Challenge, our hope is to apply for additional funding so we can continue to grow our project.”

To read Eddy’s blog that documents the progress of GROW projects (including the Women of Banglatown), visit