It's Easy Being Green: David Hedden Brings Green Thinking to Long Beach
Article by Ryan Smolar
David built the Learning Garden at the new Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and the aquaponics systems at The Growing Experience Urban Farm. He filled empty lots with whimsical birdhouses with the Arts Council for Long Beach, and he helps run the The Studio, a maker space at the downtown Main Library. And in his spare time (haha), he teaches design at CSULB. Busy, right?
The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Learning Garden
In September of 2016, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson sought a fitting entryway for the brand new, $10 million Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. A garden seemed like a great idea since the library's namesake First Lady is an advocate for good food and healthy kids, and she planted a food garden upon moving into the White House with California local food advocate, Alice Waters.
Because I work for the Uptown Property & Community Association and Long Beach Fresh, the Vice Mayor worked with me to identify a partnership to create a garden at the site. The setup wasn't appropriate for a community garden, but showed promise for a managed communal food operation where food could be grown by volunteers and experts and harvested by the community as they needed it.
David worked with his partner David Rosenstein at OurFoods, a state leader in communtiy-driven aquaponics projects, to relentlessly design and install a dozen raised beds with an irrigated drip system in September for the launch of the Library. Just a few months later, hundreds of pounds of lettuce, kale, tomatoes, herbs, flowers and onion sprigs have been harvested from the site.
The Library staff says the feature has been a success, and has generated a lot of community interest. "I visit the library to get cookbooks, and then come out here to get the produce to make the recipes," one local resident told me during a visit in late October. Long Beach Fresh recently co-hosted a Community Harvest with Hedden at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Gardens as part of their work with the Coalition for a Healthy North Long Beach, who helped fund and connect all of this programming through their Kaiser HealZones grant.
The library garden isn't David's first in North Long Beach. As part of his project, Leaf & Fin Aquaponics, David partnered with North Long Beach's The Growing Experience: an Urban Farm first to build rudimentary aquaponics systems -- a food growing method that creates a symbiosis between fish and crops.
After a few generations of systems, a lot of plants grown, and a fish fry or two, Hedden landed a $50,000 grant with The Growing Experience to develop a full-fledged aquaponics green house located at the Carmelitos Housing Project. Hedden relishes these types of project where he's able to "utilize design-thinking methods and problem-solving techniques to provide sustainable solutions and educational awareness."
David the Maker
Hedden helped lead up this project along with creatives at MADE in Long Beach, designer Gabriel Gaete and metal artist Sherry Ray-Von who casted the final designs. The design scored Long Beach national attention, and turned heads in the 3D printing community. It's amazing to think about all the talent and technology David is catalyzing across the city through his various maker mitzvahs as I call them.
Squeeze Art Collective, Xmas, Doodlefest & Beyond
Beyond the projects already highlighted, you can see David's fingerprints all over North Long Beach.
Earlier this year, the artist collective he and his parnter Katie Phillips help run held doodle sessions and figure drawing classes during UpLAB's pre-opening days, they also worked with the Vice Mayor and the Arts Council for Long Beach to help muralize North Long Beach through the $50,000 Creative Corridor Challenge program that resulted in nearly ten new murals in the area and had amazing effects on graffiti that we explained in "Hacking North Long Beach: Graffiti."
David also worked with local youth and eager neighbors to build last year's Uptown Xmas decorations, has co-produced zines about urban agriculture, and works to teach and share his knowledge with others. "I really enjoy coming up with ideas and solutions to challenging problems that have a positive social or environmental impact," explains Hedden. "I tell people to nurture your passions, especially those that have a positive impact, and you will be rewarded on many levels."
What's Next: Where David Hedden is Headin'
Despite an incredibly busy schedule, David sees no sign of slowing down. He explains, "I could really use a clone of myself to get more stuff done or perhaps a device that bends space/time... More realistically, volunteering with us at the makerspace or lending a hand with our urban agriculture projects will helps these trends to grow and flourish!"
His partner Katie's group Squeeze Art Collective has been hosting an interesting series of artist talks and there are rumors of them expanding in exciting ways in 2017. The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Teaching Garden is slated to run for all of next year and is forming partnerships with the North Long Beach Crop Swappers and a possible chef skills series at the Library.
I'm glad I know David, and I'm a big fan of all of his exciting projects. If you're interested in urban agriculture, eco-design, aquaponics and the intersections of art, environment and technology in Long Beach, I recommend you start by lending David Hedden a hand or inviting him to come to speak to your group.