- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The youths involved with Global Gardens might not be familiar with downtown Tulsa, but they are familiar with the gardens they grow in their in-school and after-school programs.

So when they were asked to design a mural with an emphasis on downtown, they combined their perceptions of downtown with the idea of garden life.

“They were asked what downtown would look like in their minds. A lot of answers included crowds, tall buildings and construction,” Annie Ferris, creative and after-school programming director with Global Gardens, told the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/1rgov8A).

“The conversation turned into how their gardens were like little cities where the ants and aphids are people and the plants are the buildings.”

Between 60 and 70 students submitted their drawings, and those ideas were culled into a mural that is being painted under the Interstate 244 bridge at Elgin Avenue in Tulsa.

The written message accompanying the mural is “We are the planters of ideas and the architects of our lives.”

“They are in control of if they will go to college or get married or not. They are the architects of their lives,” Ferris said of her students. “I want them to be reinforced with the idea of the control they have over their lives.

“Nothing is set in stone. They have the ability come up with an idea and make it happen.”

Global Gardens, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering low-income students and communities through the creation of community gardens, is one of four groups selected to paint murals in the area. The other groups include Phoenix Rising, Tulsa Girls Art School and the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.

The project is funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Global Gardens mural was designed by students three years ago, so the youths doing the painting now are not the same who came up with the original - although they have embraced the idea.

“This has allowed us to have that conversation longer,” Ferris said.

Princess Hajjar, Global Gardens educator at Eugene Field, said the project is a good way for her students to learn how to express their ideas artistically.

“They have the ability to create something permanent and leave their legacy,” Hajjar said. “When we talked about the broader picture, looking at downtown like a garden, they really understood the idea. We want growth and peace in our garden, and that’s the same thing we want in our community.”

Destiny Holcomb, 10, said she enjoyed getting to paint the mural with her friends and classmates.

“It’s cool because we get to show our parents our project, and when we grow up we can show our kids or nieces and nephews what we did when we were little,” she said.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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