It’s an unfortunate reality that the terms “affordable housing” and “great quality of life” are often mutually exclusive. Communities designated as affordable housing are usually associated with no-frills living; amenities, gardens, and public art aren’t often thought of as neighborhood features. But for residents of Hawk View, an apartment complex in north Reno operated by the Reno Housing Authority, all of this and more will be regular fixtures for residents.
In April 2022, RHA applied for a project grant from the Nevada Arts Council for the Hawk View Creative Innovation Station on an empty lot of roughly 40 by 20 yards, filled with nothing but dirt and bordered by chain-link fencing. The project, as defined in the application, would be a home to STEAM activities and would include “a safe, innovative, outdoor space for low-income residents to partake in creative art activities.” It would include a community garden, a mural or public art installation from a local artist, a space for collaborative art projects, and a gathering place for residents.
In summer, RHA received word that it would receive the full grant amount of $7,000 for the project from Nevada Arts Council, which praised the project for being innovative, unique, and impactful.
Resident Engagement Specialist Michael Menches explains that Sierra Arts Foundation would identify potential artists to propose public art/mural ideas for the space—artists must be credentialed and cleared as arts educators in order to lead guided projects with residents. Reno’s Urban Roots will work with residents through its Gardening for All program to help residents plan and design the garden, select items to plant through the next year, and provide soil and compost, as well as provide education for residents to keep the garden thriving. Additionally, Waste Management, with its emphasis on upcycling, will develop a program to lead residents in upcycling materials for a decorative garden project as well.
It’s all part of RHA’s mission to add programs and activities for residents of all ages to increase their independence and quality of life, from workforce development to summer youth camps and senior assistance. Residents are encouraged to participate in their communities’ resident councils, which operate similarly to homeowners’ associations and enable residents to make important decisions about where they live and in what activities they engage.
One such resident is William Gutierrez, three-year resident of Hawk View and vice president of its resident council. “About a year ago, some residents came to me wanting us to maybe think about doing a garden,” Gutierrez says. “[Menches] did a lot of the legwork, helping us with applications and all that … There’s nothing there, it’s just DG (decomposed granite), just a blank space. And, you know, it’s the perfect place for a garden.”
Beverly Harding is a nine-year resident at Hawk View who lives with her daughter and grandson, who has a disability that causes him to require round-the-clock care. She’s part of community’s garden club, which will be heavily involved in the direction for and maintenance of the HVCIS.
“The word ‘garden’ just gets me. I just like gardens,” Harding says. “In my past, I’ve owned homes and had gardens; living in an apartment is different, and I just thought, maybe this might be an opportunity to get my hands in the dirt.”
Harding, who lives near the lot designated for the HVCIS and says she and her family will greatly benefit from the tranquility of the garden, hopes young people will enjoy it.
“We hope to get children involved and get them planting, teaching them that if they plant a seed it’s going to grow into a pretty flower or a shade tree or something they can eat,” she says.
And Gutierrez hopes that neighborhood connections will flower as the garden develops. “Hopefully our little community will be involved with all of it, and I think once they see stuff start happening, they’ll be interested,” he says, adding he personally looks forward to the view he’ll have when it’s built. “My living room window overlooks that lot, and it’s super exciting that this big blank area will have something like this.”
Grant requirements include completion before June. At the time of this writing, a grand opening for the HVCIS is currently planned for May.
Follow Double Scoop for updates on the HVCIS, including artist and art project selection, in the new year.