About GROW:


GROW: A course at the intersection of art and urban farming




Angelina Davis, Julie George, Allison Wint and Layla Weidner


This is a Special Project class, which offers students an exploration of urban gardening as a sustainable medium and an artistic expression. The class explores basic gardening techniques, community building, and the context of living sculpture. Students will be introduced to historical and contemporary artists and traditions that explore plants and gardens as mediums of expression. Besides researching organic, living material as medium and/or subject, the class will explore historical and contemporary political and social conditions that share urban gardening in Detroit. This class provides a platform for students to work to explore their individual projects and work as a collaborative. Open to non-majors with departmental approval.


GROW: GARDEN + GARAGE explores the intersection of art, urban gardening and community through workshops, collaborative projects, community actions and engagement with gardening communities around the city of Detroit. The broad history of gardening, community building, art history and land-based artworks, and social and spatial practices will be used as reference points.

We will discuss many aspects of the urban gardening experience (growing techniques, cycles/seasons, garden structures, food security, irrigation systems, permaculture, land issues) and how longstanding gardening traditions could inform innovations in creative practices and foster a sustainable culture providing tools for self-reliance. As we interact directly with agricultural and creative communities throughout the city, we will explore ways of getting to know the neighborhoods and people of Detroit as well as methods for working collaboratively with particular communities. There will be emphasis on material experiments and shared labor.

This class will have a thorough discussion and survey of key thinkers/artists (such as Fritz Haeg, Amy Franceschini, Rick Lowe, Haha Collective, Paul Chan, and Center for Land Use Interpretation) who have laid the groundwork for the integration of gardening/land use, community building and creative practice. We will emphasize those thought leaders who embrace the care and craft of a self-sustaining lifestyle.

During the semester, work related to urban gardening as a medium and an artistic expression will be approached in a seasonal manner. Projects will explore relevant historical and contemporary art, gardening, and community issues that address public/private space and the intersection of art/craft/everyday life.

Shared work and meals, workshops, personal research, material experiments, one-on-one meetings, readings, writing, critiques, films, and group discussions with artists and gardeners in Detroit will provide a regular source of supportive dialogue and critical framework. Students will be encouraged to cultivate collaborative relationships with gardeners in Detroit, classmates, and the city of Detroit itself.

Students will have the opportunity to apply for funding through a grant from the Ford Foundation to actualize a project in a garden in Detroit that builds on their work in this course during the spring semester.


After completing this course, students are expected to be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of tools and processes related to outdoor gardening
  • Employ artistic, collaborative, and creative ways of working to get to know gardeners and artists working in Detroit
  • Create art experiences and pieces that use urban gardening practices
  • Imagine and implement growing techniques to create living sculptural plants/objects/community activities (indoors and outdoors and in relation to an environment)
  • Create objects, spaces, tools, activities, and other artistic expressions that respond to the materials, needs, and resources of gardens in Detroit
  • Discuss the history and current conditions of Detroit from diverse perspectives
  • Conduct and document research for projects using diverse methods of research and contributing the finding towards the class blog
  • Physically construct building and design components of projects
  • Identify relevant historical, regional and contemporary artists/thinkers working in urban gardening and exploring the life and current conditions of the city
  • Individually define and articulate how gardening, art, and community practices can be applied towards everyday life and self-reliant living

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