Notable funders help build new garden + rooftop hives to advance art, education, food
There’s a new kind of buzz around GoggleWorks Center for the Arts (GoggleWorks). The renowned art center announced Tuesday a host of grants to support a new beekeeping program, the latest initiative with its neighbor and partner Lauer’s Park Elementary. The GoggleWorks Gardens at Lauer’s Park, located adjacent to GoggleWorks, present interactive arts and culture programs in the school’s four dynamic gardens. The new program, called “Sweet Relief”, will engage youth and adults alike through the dynamic processes of beekeeping and honey making.
“While beekeeping may not be the first thing people think of when they think about the visual arts, these buzzing colonies have gone hand in hand with the arts for hundreds of years,” said Tim Compton, Artistic Director at GoggleWorks. “And like artists, bees are constantly making–in this case honey–building curiosity and inspiration while they work.” In this way, leaders said, programs surrounding these collections of beehives, or “apiaries”, will help fulfill their creative mission and simultaneously advance food access and community self-reliance.
Notable foundations provided support for the project. The PA Department of Agriculture provided $40,000 over two years through a grant program for specialty crops, including honey. Foundations associated with two major corporations also provided small grants–Whole Kids Foundation (Whole Foods) and GroMoreGood (Scott’s MiracleGro). These funds supplied beekeeping equipment, sustained jobs, and installed apiaries in the garden and on the publicly-visible rooftop of the former Willson Goggle Factory, the art center’s indoor home.
“Bees are vital to our everyday lives as humans as they pollinate our precious crops that we eat. Bees provide healing for the planet and people in a multitude of ways so it’s very important for us to host them in the gardens,” said Tiana Lopez, Garden Manager at GoggleWorks.
While bees are most well known for their honey, GoggleWorks leaders said their wax honeycomb provides unique value to artists. The material is used in dyeing, painting, and even woodworking finishes. The art center will now offer classes in encaustic, a centuries old technique of painting with wax, incorporating wax from the hives into art projects. GoggleWorks designed Sweet Relief to yield honey and beeswax for retail and art sales, but the primary focus initially will be on education and community engagement. The bees will be incorporated into garden classes for youth and adults, drawing and painting classes, and the nonprofit’s flagship After School Arts Program (ASAP), incorporating best practices for public safety. Residents and volunteers will have opportunities to engage with the apiaries through campus tours, market events, and “GoggleWorks on the Go” mobile programs throughout the community.
“We are thrilled to steward an intricate process to teach others about art and community,” said Compton. “The bees pollinate flowers and plants in the surrounding area, producing more beauty and productivity in the gardens. The honey and beeswax produced from this process are the added benefits from this highly technical system they have designed. So actually,” quipped Compton, “bees are artists and engineers.”