project leader
Emily C
Black Street
(East Liberty )
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Art in the Garden in a Nutshell

the project

Art in the Garden is OMA Pittsburgh’s first program for youth. Our programming invests in the resiliency and social and emotional well-being of youth. Above all, Art in the Garden seeks to enable youth to grow in their understanding of connectedness to themselves, each other, and our earth. Our programming supports youth knowing—in deep and lasting ways—the interconnectedness of all living beings, and the ways in which we are all whole and all belong.

Art in the Garden focuses on secular mindfulness and emotional well-being through ecology and the arts. A response to the rapid pace of global climate change and the growing anxiety among youth about its effects on their future, Art in the Garden engages youth in a solutions-based approaches. Youth learn regenerative practices needed to help stop and reverse climate change.Art in the Garden supports youth in developing resilience through activities in the arts. As youth engage various weekly themes based on the five core competencies of social and emotional learning, they find that that instead of reacting impulsively they are able to step back and choose how they want to respond, even in difficult situations. The premise is this: when we develop our abilities to care for ourselves, our compassion for ourselves and others grows. As youth create masks, poems, music, sculptures, and mosaics they learn the value of their voices, experience the joy of creation, and celebrate one another. 

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. At Art in the Garden, campers develop abilities to identify and process emotions and channel their energies into activities that support their ability to live their fullest expressions of themselves. Our vision is to become a model for best practices in social and emotional learning and in trauma-informed care and resilience. 

Registration priority is given to underserved youth from the neighborhoods we serve. Youth receive free breakfast and lunch. Camp runs from 9-1 for nine weeks this summer (June 24th-August 22nd). Youth will be able to attend camp at the African Healing Garden in Larimer on Mondays or Borland Garden in East Liberty on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. 

Community Partners.

Art in the Garden features workshops with community partners that empower youth to see themselves as creators of positive change. Our 2019 community partners are:

Sankofa Village for the Arts will engage youth through West African musical and performance traditions. Youth will use sound and movement as a tool for regulating emotions, and developing self-esteem, self-discipline, and self-determination.

TOPittsburgh will provide interactive theatre and drama workshops each week, using exercises and games from Theatre of the Oppressed. In Theatre of the Oppressed, developed in the 1970’s by Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal, participants analyze systems of oppression, share stories of oppression from their own lives, and rehearse strategies to overcome these systems and make positive change in the world. Boal’s approach is across the globe in a variety of fields and contexts, including: politics, therapy, conflict resolution, and education.

The Clay Workshop with ceramic artists Sandra Moore, Shawn Terrell, and Frank McNutt provides the tools and materials for youth to make a series of clay artifacts. Youth learn about a variety of surface treatments such as burnishing, stamps, texture and glaze and the low fire technique, Horsehair Raku. As youth discuss what their clay piece needs to survive the firing, which they do in a kiln built on site, they also have the opportunity to discuss resilience and what they each need in order to thrive in the face of challenges. Building on sequential firings, youth learn to create more durable and better-constructed pieces.  

The Storymobile from Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh brings stories, activities, books, and literary resources to Art in the Garden. Each time The Storymobile visits, youth are given a book to expand their home libraries.

SOAR Coaching Academy led by Anita Russell gives youth opportunities to explore their true strength and to dream big. 

Earthen Vessels provides free breakfast and lunch for all of the youth.

Surviving to Thriving Seminars.

Surviving to Thriving training seminars are free and open to the public. 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 Surviving to Thriving seminars.  Save the dates! Summer 2019 Surviving to Thriving Seminars are Saturdays, June 15th& August 10th. Attendees—educators, administrators, parents, grandparents, and anyone working with youth—will gain an understanding of social, emotional, mental and behavioral health issues and learn necessary skills to support youth. Keynote speakers and workshops teach concrete, actionable holistic skills adults can use to support youth in developing resilience and stronger brain architecture including: developing mindfulness practices, strengthening conflict transformation, fostering supportive relationships with youth, and skills that support youth for development of social and emotional intelligence. Using community collaborative learning sessions, we are developing greater awareness about the needs that exist for healthy youth development and holistic and accessible skills that can support the healthy development of mind, body, and spirit beyond our program in all aspects of their lives.

the steps

This summer we are...

EXPANDING PROGRAMMING TO THE AFRICAN HEALING GARDEN which is headed by the incredible Betty Lane.  

EXPANDING TEEN PROGRAMMING by hiring a Teen Garden Program Manager to train teen leaders to serve as junior and senior counselors for AITG. This program will have a strong focus on food justice, ecology, the arts, and developing resilience. Through Pittsburgh’s Learn and Earn program, youth ages 14-18 will have paid positions as Senior Counselors.   

BUILDING A SHELTER from natural materials. A shelter 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. 

BUILDING TOILET FACILITIES. We are raising money for a composting toilet, an out-house style shelter, and hand-washing station. 

DEVELOPING CURRICULUM that will be free for all programs interested in teaching social and emotional learning and resilience through the arts, ecology, and food justice.

why we're doing it

Ever year, youth and their families 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.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about Art in the Garden and Surviving to Thriving programming, click here and here

Supporting Art in the Garden.

Art in the Garden is made possible by support from individuals like you and by Borland Garden, The Neighbors Committee, and The Heinz Endowments. 

"The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to our work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive."


Disbursed Budget 4.22.19:

2,000 shelter (WHICH IS AMAZING! AND COST FAR MORE THAN THIS, so we need to continue to raise for that)
545.20 goes toward funding one camper (this amount is basically toward teacher pay)


TOTAL RAISED = $2,660.00
ioby Platform Fee $35.00
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $79.80

Original Budget 2.12.19

SHELTER: When rain is hard or wind is strong, our tarps have proven (sometimes quite dramatically) insufficient. A shelter will make it possible for us to hold programming in inclement weather, which is essential for families needing reliable childcare, and enable us to extend programming into the cooler seasons. The total cost for a shelter is $8,000 including labor. Here are some of the details. We will use Black Locust for posts, beams, braces, and decking. Additional materials: canvas shade extensions, rafters, green roof, footings. Thoughtful design: Black Locust is a native tree, which is rot resistant.

COMPOSTING TOILET AND OUTHOUSE: The total cost for a composting toilet and outhouse is $1,900, including labor. Thoughtful design: 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. There is a great need for green infrastructure and community gardens can be leaders by adopting and promoting composting toilets to the public.

With this fundraiser, we hope to raise $7,000. Any money raised over this amount will help cover what remains from the above costs and go to support curriculum design for our open-source curriculum. If you would like your donation to go to a specific aspect of the program, please designate that or let us know by emailing: If there is someone you know who might be interested in helping to support this program, please connect us! Find out more at

ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $218



Art in the Garden in a Nutshell

Art in the Garden is a program that:

  • empowers children with solutions-based approaches to care for our environment in this time of climate change
  • supports children in seeing themselves as creators through the visual arts, poetry, music, dance, and theater so that they may live their fullest expression of themselves 
  • gives children tools to grow in their ability to empathize, communicate, develop confidence, be team-players, and make constructive choices
  • utilizes research from neuroscience on how to help children develop resilience 
  • is developing a curriculum that will be free for all programs interested in teaching social and emotional learning and resilience through the arts, ecology, and food justice
  • supports adults—through OMA’s Surviving to Thriving seminars and collaborative conversations—in developing our understanding of trauma, its effects on youth, how to help youth develop resilience and stronger brain architecture, and building system change in schools and summer programs in Pittsburgh and beyond


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


  • Oehrle Family
  • Marilyn Carpenter
  • Erik Zelesnick
  • Emily DeFerrari and Mel Packer
  • Rajal Cohen & Maggie Rehm
  • Anonymous
  • Ian Smith
  • Nick Coles
  • Renae M.
  • John Maletta Jr
  • Meg & Stephen
  • Sandra L Moore
  • Janet Kinnane
  • Anonymous
  • Joanne R.
  • Barbara Edelman
  • Julia Finch
  • Connie Totera hutchison
  • Deborah Carter
  • Rachel N
  • Stephanie F.
  • Joy Katz
  • Anonymous
  • Linda J. Esposto
  • Judy Traister
  • Eppinger Family
  • Anonymous
  • Cathy Fitzgerald
  • Clare Cornell
  • Nadya U.
  • paola scommegna
  • David T
  • Joy Katz and Rob Handel
  • Joseph G.
  • Emily Loeb
  • Anonymous
  • Callie Gropp
  • Emily Carlson
  • Heather Eng
  • Anonymous
  • Deb Carter