The garden guild
It’s a Monday afternoon. Alyssa Concannon pushes through the library door of Ringling College, to embrace the effects of spring. She chooses a stone bench, close by, that has a perfect view of the campus landscape across the street. A corner lot with an large oak tree and a bench draws her attention. She shakes her head with a laugh. Concannon realizes she has been caught daydreaming. She looks towards me, as her wavy brown hair hugs the wind, and says,
“Do you think it’s missing something?”
Concannon, a third-year animation student and transplant from New Jersey, began her first semester at Ringling College of Art and Design with a heart full for the beauty of the Earth. At first she did not know the extent of how she would have her hands in it. That is, until she selected to spend her mandatory freshman volunteer day at the Orange Blossom Community Garden (OBCG) and learned about composting. Worms, juice pulp, organic decompositions, paper plates, soil, and a plot just for Ringling students, Concannon’s time at the garden developed into a passion to persuade Ringling to dedicate its own space for gardening and composting.
“It is all so lovely ... the beautiful greens hypnotized me. I want to bring that feeling to campus and introduce students to the awareness of how plants and the ecosystem work when they eat their food, then bring it to a locale,” Concannon says.
The connection to the Earth, and repurposing its organic products to grow more materials, is only one motivator for her mission. Inspired by food-forest models on other college campuses, Concannon wants to advocate for Ringling to make a mark of its own.
Her vision for Ringling College is to see students create a wholesome experience in gardening and composting, on campus, that can also be translated as art.
“You give by existing and caring for an area or compost area. I have a lot of plants that are edible and some that are not, but they are a safe place ... almost like friends,” Concannon says with a giggle, and covers her mouth.
Concannon has built a bridge for OBCG and its main compost contributor. After losing its most valuable donor this year, Ringling now donates biodegradable food scraps from the mess-hall, in pails, to the OBCG. Along other students involved in environment-friendly clubs, Concannon transports the scraps and works to spread the word about bringing a compost-friendly garden guild to the Ringling campus.
The advocates are seeking grants and hosting meetings with teachers and faculty members to determine what is possible in creating interactive art that also serves as landscape for the school.
“I think it’s important that students feel a responsibility for it. It’s not a chore, it’s another form of recycling,” Concannon says. “I think it’s beautiful.”