New microgrant-funded projects will bring art and urban gardens to Northside communities


Soon, with a little help from the latest round of Charm Bracelet Project microgrants, crops will grow in community gardens, artists and writers will take to the streets and young songwriters will take to the airwaves.

The Charm Bracelet Project’s Northside Microgrant Fund gives $500 to $10,000 to local organizations for projects that will strengthen partnerships between organizations, promote positive community activities and contribute to vibrant public spaces, according to a press release.

The most recent round of grants went to five projects proposed by the Mattress Factory and Venture Outdoors; Saturday Light Brigade and Cardinal Wright Regional School; City of Asylum; Troy Hill Community Garden Cooperative and Troy Hill Citizens Council; and Sarah Heinz House and the Silver Sneaker Fitness Program.

ART Outdoors

The Mattress Factory is partnering with Venture Outdoors to bring free family activities to Allegheny Commons Park during the summer on Tuesday evenings. The activities will focus on creating art projects from found items and will coincide with Venture Outdoors’s Community Kayaking program in Lake Elizabeth.

Northside Songs

Saturday Light Brigade Radio’s program will teach students from Cardinal Wright Regional School’s second through fourth graders how to write and record their own folk songs about the Northside, said SLB Executive Director Larry Berger.

“We know from experience that kids love to write songs,” Berger said.

Each class will choose two topics, such as Lake Elizabeth, local Native American culture or the Northside’s involvement in the Underground Railroad. They will research their topic with the help of the Carnegie Library, learn about traditional folk music and then write and record their own songs.

Sense of Play Learning will publish the songs, along with additional teaching materials, online so that any area schools may teach their students the folk songs.

The Children’s Museum and the Allegheny Commons Initiative will also help with the project.

Poetry on Northside Streets

City of Asylum received a microgrant for two events: an outdoor reading with poetry organization Cave Canum on June 24 and the annual Jazz and Poetry Jam on September 11.

For the Cave Canum reading, City of Asylum will close Monterey Street between Sampsonia and Jacksonia streets. Director Henry Reese said the organization would set up a tent as well, and the event will be free and open to the public.

Cave Canum is a prestigious organization for black poets, and several of its faculty members will read at the event.

“We think it’s really important … that we make as much literature as possible available to people in every day life,” Reese said. 

Troy Hill Community Garden Co-op

Troy Hill Community Garden Co-op director Chris McGuigan said that this co-op will work a little differently than a traditional one. “Instead of everyone having their own separate pot that they work on, everyone works together.”

Everyone is then part owner in the crops, everyone has to do their share of weeding and watering, and everyone gets an equal share of the harvest, he said.

The grant money the co-op received will go toward soil remediation, building and fixing fences around the three plots on Elbow Street and putting up signage.

Although McGuigan doesn’t expect a large harvest the first year, he said all the spots have been filled and co-op members are excited to get the project started. Eventually, they want to expand to more plots around Troy Hill so that more people can join.

Those interested in being put on the waiting list can email McGuigan at

Urban Learning Gardens

Sarah Heinz House and the Silver Sneaker Fitness Program for senior citizens are partnering to teach kids about where their food comes from and how to eat healthier.

Jennifer Schnell, a grad student intern at Sarah Heinz who runs the Environmental Program, said many kids believe their food comes only from the grocery store and don’t realize it has to be grown and transported.

Silver Sneaker members have already begun planting herbs and crops in outdoor gardens. Those members will then come in and help teach the kids how to grow and take care of the plants, which include cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, onion, peppers, tomato, zucchini and much more.

At the end of the summer, the students will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor — literally.

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