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magic penny memory garden

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The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support and the Persephone Project, a Carnegie Mellon project centered on the concept of gardens as art, created signature gardens on the grounds of the historic Carnegie Library of Homestead. The purpose of these gardens is to 1) promote bereavement healing, 2) create a landscape design befitting the historic landmark building, and 3) engage the public with their own transformative creativity.

The gardens are modeled on the Persephone Project’s Magic Penny Gardens concept. Magic Penny Gardens are community art gardens created by artists using plants contributed from the perennial gardens of public participants. Conceived by artist and Persephone Project founder Stephanie Flom, the Magic Penny Gardens are inspired by a folk song that equates love to a magic penny—the more it is given away, the more it is, in turn, received. When Flom realized that most of the plants in her thriving perennial garden came from the gardens of friends and family and that the more she gives plants away, the more she seems to have, she dubbed it her Magic Penny Garden.

To date, five public Magic Penny Gardens have been created in various locations in the Pittsburgh-area. Hundreds of individuals have contributed plants and told the poignant stories of the meaning of the plant in their lives. It is significant that the overwhelming majority of stories touch upon the subject of grief in some way. Individuals brought the gifts of plants from now-deceased parents, friends, and mentors. Their intention was to honor these individuals and to memorialize them by telling the stories of the plants that they shared. Many participants expressed that memories are re-kindled each year when the plants reappear in their gardens. Participants sharing plants with the Magic Penny Memory Garden will be asked to tell the stories of their plants both in writing and orally, to be recorded on video tape.

The Magic Penny Memory Garden at the Carnegie Library of Homestead is intended as a place of healing where memories of loved ones are honored and the transformative power of natural beauty, art, and community are realized.

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