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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Planting a community at the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden

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A PSIP 2.0 group making birdhouses for the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden. A PSIP 2.0 group at Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden. PHOTO: HANNAH MADEYA ’24/THE HAWK

The Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden, located in Kensington, North Philadelphia, has become a frequent service spot for St. Joe’s students participating in the university’s Philadelphia Service Immersion Program (PSIP).

The garden is run by Pedro Ospina, who works to bring the community together through food, gardening and human connections.

“The idea of the project is really simple,” Ospina said. “To create a space for people to gather and share food. That’s really the main focus.”

The garden operates as an open space for community members to visit for free. Filled with various sculptures from local artists, including Ospina himself, as well as different plants and fruits, the garden hosts new events and experiences to create an interactive and welcoming community during its operating spring, summer and fall seasons.

As members of the community come and experience the garden, the space helps them express themselves, Ospina said.

“The more you help out, the more that kind of stuff comes back to you, and that’s what the project is really about. It’s just a different type of exchange,” Ospina said.

At the end of August 2023, PSIP 2.0 participants and leaders volunteered at the garden during the upper-level students’ early arrival program for four days. Participants like Abbey Chan ’26, as well as others in her group, helped break down wooden pallets, paint sculptures and build birdhouses for the garden.

A PSIP 2.0 group at Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARISSA MARCHESE ’24

During her time in the garden, Chan came to witness the connections and the community that the garden builds with those who visit it.

“I feel like it just made me want to take a step back and focus on the things that actually matter, like human connections, and just being present with other people,” Chan said.

A favorite moment among volunteers, like PSIP 2.0 leader Marissa Marchese ’24, was eating lunch with Ospina. While discussing his philosophy on life and the garden’s activities, participants and leaders learned about the mission and the meaning behind the garden.

“People in the community can come together and have dinner,” Marchese said. “It’s also very much focused and centered around art.”

While the garden is centered around building a community through connections, according to Marchese, it is also centered around the art displayed throughout. Whether physical or auditory art, the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden is a place where people can express themselves.

The garden hosts events throughout its operating seasons, ranging from potlucks to art fundraisers to seasonal celebrations, and is open to everyone.

Experiencing first-hand the garden that not only helps the community, but also inspires those involved, is what will stay with Marchese, who has already visited Ospina since PSIP ended.

“It’s just something that has really encouraged me to not just do service in a program or for a school requirement, but just something I genuinely want to do on my own time,” Marchese said.

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Tess Coary, Assistant Features Editor
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