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VOL. 130 | NO. 174 | Monday, September 7, 2015

Learning in Action

Memphis' Carpenter Art Garden expands with new job-training hub

By Madeline Faber

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For the past three years, the Carpenter Art Garden has worked to unite and uplift a Binghampton neighborhood and keep kids engaged with the community.

But with a new expansion into job training, the Binghampton Development Corp. and the leaders of the Carpenter Art Garden aim to send the kids on local apprenticeships to compete in a national job market.

By early 2016, a recently purchased house adjacent to the vibrant art garden will serve as a job hub where area children can learn bike maintenance, sewing, baking and carpentry.

“This isn't just about community outreach,” said Clark Butcher, board member with the Carpenter Art Garden and owner of Victory Bicycle Studio. “This is about providing equity and not just providing a service.”

In June, Binghampton Development – which houses the Carpenter Art Garden’s efforts – received a $50,000 grant from the Plough Foundation to fund the renovation of a house in the community. For a little more than $8,000, the organization purchased a 1,300-square-foot house at 296 Carpenter St. from an owner whose family has lived in the neighborhood for generations.

Inspiration for the job hub stemmed from the success of Donte Davis, the child responsible for the ubiquitous Memphis Grizzlies heart yard signs. He started making the signs during afternoons in the Carpenter Art Garden, and he has now placed nearly 1,000 of them across Memphis. Among its other uses, the house will serve as a homebase for the Grizz hearts production.

Anthony Siracusa, founder of the Revolutions Bicycle CoOp based at First Congregational Church, is designing the bike maintenance training curriculum.

Under the program, up to 10 kids will learn the ins and outs of bike maintenance for a year. After graduating from the program, the group will go on to teach the curriculum to the next class of students. Kids that make it to that point will be placed at a local bike shop to complete an apprenticeship.

Support for the program is across the board, Butcher said, with every bike shop in Memphis, Germantown and Bartlett signed on to provide apprenticeships.

“If you work on bikes and you’ve got more than five years experience, you can work anywhere you want,” Butcher said. “It is a critical position in bike shops and the one that we have the hardest time filling.”

For when bike school isn’t in service, Sew Memphis, Muddy’s Bake Shop, Bingham & Broad, T Clifton Art Gallery and other businesses have agreed to provide classes and internships teaching everything from furniture restoration to art framing.

The house also will have a private room for conferences and community gathering.

“It’s just a building that wants to expand the offerings for the kids. Not every single child is going to go to college,” said Erin Harris, director of the Carpenter Art Garden. “They need to have some skills where they can go out and get a job.

“Through our sewing program they can go on to sew costumes for Theatre Memphis or such. With the bike guys, maybe that really gets them in gear to finish high school then maybe encourages them to go on to college because they want to work at FedEx as a mechanic.”

The job hub will help fill in the art garden’s presence. The BDC owns two lots down the street from the garden, which are used as community vegetable gardens.

Last September, it purchased a blighted house from the Shelby County Land Bank to continue the art garden’s work into the winter months. Dubbed the Purple House, it hosts tutoring, computer services, after-school clubs and a laundry co-op.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064