The Garden

Emily Art and Gordon Douglas

Megan and John Kennedy-Farrell

Alea Plants Garlic

Shirley Birts

Deborah Weaver

The Garden Conversations: Remix #1

The arbor at the 61st Street Community Garden

For the last few weeks, I have been talking with gardeners at an imperiled community garden on the South Side of Chicago.  My colleagues at the Invisible Institute and I are making a “live documentary” about the garden, daily posting short conversations with gardeners, speaking out of their 10’ x 10’ plots, while we work on a full-length narrative.  (You can taste our work at the end of this post.)  At this point, we don’t yet know how the story ends.

Located at 61st Street and Dorchester Avenue, the garden is on land owned by the University of Chicago.  Since 2000, the U of C has allowed the gardeners—I am among them—to use the site.  Last spring, it informed us it wants its land back The University has no immediate plans to build on the site, but rather intends to use it temporarily as a staging area for the construction of a building at the other end of the block. It has set October 30 as the deadline for the gardeners to vacate the land they have cultivated.

Over the past six months, various efforts have been made to engage the U of C in conversation about possible practical alternatives that would preserve the garden until the time comes to build on it.  (That process began with this essay.)  While we have had some fruitful, informal conversations with individual administrators, the institution’s position has remained unchanged: It’s our land. We want it back. You always knew your use of it was provisional.


Janet Underhill

Tatyana Grushko

Ph.D Science Researcher


Perspectives: Ben Helphand


Executive Director, NeighborSpace



Shula Bien (Part 2)

Teacher, University of Chicago Graduate