Par­adise Found

GOOD­WILL AND GAR­DEN­ING THRIVE IN A GREEN SPACE ON THE NORTH SIDE BY ANNA MILLER

Milwaukee Magazine - - AUGUST - Text by ANNA MILLER, photos by SARA STATHAS

Build­ing a sense of com­mu­nity is just as im­por­tant as grow­ing vegeta­bles at Alice’s Gar­den.

Lo­cated in an empty lot off of North 21st Street and West Garfield Av­enue, Alice’s Gar­den is a hub of ur­ban agri­cul­ture that is cen­tered as much around spir­i­tu­al­ity as it is gar­den­ing. In this space, com­mu­nity mem­bers rent plots; gar­den-go­ers gather for wor­ship; vol­un­teers mulch, plant and weed; local ar­ti­sans sell their wares at mar­kets; movie nights de­light chil­dren; and crowds gather for yoga.

All of this is the brain­child of Venice Wil­liams, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and evan­gel­i­cal min­is­ter, who has helmed the en­ter­prise since 2014. “We’re striv­ing to build a close-knit, old-style com­mu­nity in the 21st cen­tury that is fo­cused on con­nec­tion and spir­i­tual heal­ing,” she says. “Though I am part of the evan­gel­i­cal church, you do not have to share my be­lief sys­tem to pray with us. It’s more about feel­ing con­nected to God and also to the land.”

On Wed­nes­day evenings dur­ing the sum­mer months, it’s easy to see Wil­liams’ mis­sion co­a­lesce. Com­mu­nity mem­bers gather to share a meal and walk the labyrinth, a path re­served for prayer and med­i­ta­tion. Plot own­ers take a break from gar­den­ing to par­tic­i­pate in The Ta­ble, a potluck din­ner com­bined with prayer that is led by Wil­liams, who also doles out gar­den­ing ad­vice dur­ing her down­time. On these nights, Alice’s Gar­den seems like a lit­tle bit of par­adise, where hope is plen­ti­ful, food is avail­able to all and every­one is wel­come.

PHOTOS BY SARA STATHAS

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