Many years ago I attended a presentation by Lily Yeh in Appleton. She talked of working, playing, creating a place in North Philadelphia. Place Making became a her model using art and eventually in the formation of Barefoot Artists. Her work and eventual success in community transformation was a story I have tried to emulate in my neighborhood.
We created Garden Park in Riverwest which has had many magical events occur over the years. It started with a garden, a flower garden, a native prairie garden. And with the blossoms came a gravitational attraction to do something together on a corner in Riverwest. Pulling Together, donated by sculptor Dan Leonhardt, which title is evidenced by its form. More recently Peace Posts were installed.
There are many vacant lots in Milwaukee and more in Harambee just west of Riverwest. There are some community gardens in both neighborhoods. One is adjacent to All Peoples Church in Harambee. It has sometimes been difficult to work with the city to get permission to improve these lots. And there are reasons the city may be circumspect. Often lofty dreams fall short of realization.
We are in a time when we need healing. And not just because of a virus, but also the scourge of hate and prejudice that can wreck good intentions. Black Lives Matter, Latino Lives Matter, Asian Lives Matter, and now is a time to plant the seeds of hope and healing. A simple pile of stones or a mural or a beautiful bench can be the attractor that makes a litter strewn lot a place of peace and healing. The only limitations are the energy and dreams of the neighbors to work together to create and maintain the vision. I know the skills are already there just waiting to be empowered to act.
Now for the sponsors of the Healing Spaces Initiative, quoted from the announcement shared March 23, 2021. The City of Milwaukee is launching the Healing Spaces Initiative (HSI) in the Harambee neighborhood. Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC) will lead the city’s effort. Healing Spaces Initiative will help residents build relaxing natural environments on available city-owned vacant lots while, at the same time, eliminate blighted spaces and engage residents. Projects will include pathways, benches, flower gardens, solar lights, Free Little Libraries and more. The HSI is funded by Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderwoman Milele Coggs, whose district includes Harambee, support this initiative.
Residents or community-based organizations may apply to create a Healing Space in the Harambee neighborhood with no out of pocket project cost.
Contact information is below and thanks to Kacee for discussing this program with me.

Meditation in Garden Park
Peace Posts and Pulling Together in the background
Kilbourn Gardeners

Kacee Ochalek

Partnering organizations include: Ground Work Milwaukee, True Skool, Eras Senior Network. Safe & Sound, NIDC, Bader Philanthropies, INC.

Photos are from local green spaces. Sculptural art graces the green in the form of Peace Posts and a metal and stone sculpture by Leonhardt in the background.
The gardeners are in Kilbourn Gardens off of North Avenue. It was the brainchild of the former editor of the Riverwest Currents, Jan Christensen, and the work of many gardeners with the help of Ground Work Milwaukee.
Garden Park has had many public uses including meditation in the park pictured.