Friends and neighbors gathered on Michigan Avenue Saturday afternoon to try out a 32-foot-long “agri-sculpture,” entitled “Tree.” Artfarms installed the table to spruce up a once-empty lot.

What’s 32 feet long, made of wood and meant to spur community activity on a forgotten East Side lot?

It’s a tree-shaped piece of art that doubles as a picnic table.

Artfarms, a local group aimed at turning vacant lots on the city’s East Side into productive greenspace, unveiled the “agri-sculpture” Saturday afternoon on Michigan Avenue.

It’s located between Riley and Laurel streets, next to the Michigan-Riley urban farm.

Both farmers and neighbors will use the table for farm-to-table dinners and art classes, bringing a sense of place back to what had been an empty plot of land, said Sarah E. Maurer, project coordinator for Artfarms.

Organizers hope the project will “breathe a little bit of life back into the community,” Maurer said.

Other organizations will help develop the farm-to-table dinners, including Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes, the Farmer Pirates Cooperative and Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo.

Artist Michael Beitz created the piece, entitled “Tree,” out of pine and blue pine over about two years. The unveiling Saturday included a community party, with food, music, face painting for kids and tours of the farm.

In the middle of the gathering sat a 30-foot-tall pile of brown mulch.

Ten feet away, a man with gray sideburns and a blue Alaska Railroad baseball cap with yellow lettering strummed an acoustic guitar.

On the other side of the pile, artists with brushes painted strokes of green, yellow and black on the faces of neighborhood children.

Elizabeth Triggs, executive director and president of the None Like You/We Care Outreach Program, said her organization plans to utilize the site next Saturday after a community cleanup starting at the nearby intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Southampton Street.

Triggs said she sees the table as something that will benefit the neighborhood.

“I think it’s going to be really wonderful,” she said.

Artfarms is planning a second sculpture for later this year at the Wilson Street urban farm.


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