Finding a spaciousness we cannot yet imagine...• Kacie Lyn Martinez


9th Street Garden

September 21st • East Village

9th St Community Garden reached out to us to host another 360 Resident after our spring residency with Linh Troung. Fiber artist Kacie Lyn Martinez took the reins: meeting, organizing and curating the entire project and residency in collaboration with the garden. Here is her reflection:

As a participatory fiber artist and human-centered designer, my 360 residency came at a fertile time in my journey of reorienting from the digital to the tactile. I weave with communities around the country as a process of engagement, collective healing, and building shared stories because I believe that there’s something so human about weaving. Interlocking fibers and words is not just cathartic, it builds stronger relationships and communities. Within the design of this micro-residency, I knew I needed to answer this early on: How can the container of six hours create spaciousness in a process-heavy medium like weaving?

I collaboratively designed my micro-residency with the 9th Street Community Garden, as co-designing with community partners is a key part of my practice. We narrowed in on an artifact they had been itching to do something with: their guestbooks. I’m fascinated with the idea that admiring and celebrating our plants encourages them to grow more vibrant, plentiful, and stable. I’ve used tapestry before as a medium for people to weave together their oral histories or hopes for the future, so I started by scanning and printing 417 letters from their guestbooks that spanned a decade. On September 21st, we collaboratively wove these love letters together in an interactive installation Garden Love Letters, an altar of gratitude, admiration, hope, and community. Dozens of garden visitors and members came together to weave letters using garden clippings and natural yarns I spent weeks hand-dyed with red cabbage, onions, and avocados. Together, we crafted an entirely biodegradable installation in six hours. 


To collectively and publicly love is a rare opportunity even for a place as beloved as the 9th Street Community Garden. In an overstimulating and bustling city, this installation was an opportunity to ground in organic materiality, physical connection, and mutual love. Many participants shared that the experience was therapeutic; some warned newcomers that they would lose track of time because it was so relaxing.  Others breathed deeper as they appreciated the visual balance of diverse leaf patterns with handwritten letters. 

My exploration in spaciousness led to an important development in my participatory practice. It prodded me to question: What is the life-cycle of a piece? Garden Love Letters expanded beyond the collective weaving on Saturday afternoon. Even further than me hand-dyeing the wool, linen, and bamboo fibers, and further back than the food I consumed in order to use these scraps to dye yarn. Originating prior to the cabbage and onion seeds beginning to sprout or the harvesting of cotton and spinning of wool, the installation interwove garden memories from guests dating back to 2009, the flowers blooming then. Then there’s the sowing of those seeds, and we venture further back in time.


Garden Love Letters didn’t conclude on September 21st either. The letters were printed on wildflower seed paper in eco-friendly ink, woven in natural fibers. After the de-installation, sections of the altar will be given to guests and garden members to plant, giving new life to this piece and the memories it is fabricated with. My intention is that these flowers will reignite love and admiration, whereby the piece finds a spaciousness I cannot yet imagine. For me, Garden Love Letters is one of my first projects that seeks to embrace the infinite, and the 360 Residency was a profound opportunity to reimagine what a process centering on humans and ecology could be.

Learn more about Kacie’s work here.
Visit the garden Saturdays and Sunday 12-5p or anytime the gate is open.
9th st and avenue C in the East Village.