PARADISE_SEPT

Paradise Garden sits among an unassuming neighborhood called Pennville, near the downtown of Summerville, Georgia. For visitors of Paradise Garden today, they find themselves exploring an area that was once a swamp. In fact not only was it a swamp when Howard first moved to the area in 1961, but the area that Paradise Garden was built on was a place used by locals as a sort of dump to dispose of worn out appliances such as washers and just was just used as a general dumping ground. Howard Finster began transforming this place of waste into a place of enchantment for neighborhood children in the early 1960s that later became a place visited by people from around the world. The Government of Chattooga County, Georgia purchased the Garden in December of 2011 and thereafter the Paradise Garden Foundation was formed to with the mission of helping revive the Garden working with local artists and students who are helping encourage a momentum of community development with an already existing art community.

ArtPlace spoke with the Paradise Garden Foundation, Executive Director, Jordan Poole, about the Paradise Garden foundation’s work to enhance community vibrancy through creative placemaking.

ARTPLACE: Is there a new challenge that engaging in creative placemaking presents for you and your organization?

POOLE: A new challenge for us has been establishing a multitude of connections within the community and region to benefit vibrancy. Our goals to foster regional economic development via tourism, public service and creative enterprise lends our efforts to encouraging not just one but many partnerships.

ARTPLACE: What effects have you noticed so far as a result of your placemaking efforts?

POOLE: We have been able to assist in creating local art education. By establishing a network of partnerships we have been able to create art education to adults and children locally as well as educate the public on the significance of Howard Finster and his contributions to Folk Art. This has in turn, especially locally helped grow a sense of pride. We have partnered with the Rome Area Council for the Arts and the Rome Area History Museum to put on a display of Howard Finster’s Work and had an amazing turnout educating hundreds of people regionally about the importance Paradise Garden. We have partnered with Vision Gallery and the Mentone Area Arts Council of nearby Mentone Alabama to offer an array of art classes to both adults and students.

ARTPLACE: What are new skills that are needed to overcome these challenges?

POOLE: The skills that have been most helpful have been our ability to join forces. It is very much a team effort that only happens by encouraging involvement from every angle. Government partnering with Chattooga County and the City of Summerville to High School students working to clean areas of the Garden, all of these are essential in establishing the momentum needed to create community vibrancy.

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