New Life, New Gardens: A Profile of Sherwood Martinelli

By Charlie Nardozzi

Sherwood Martinelli

When health problems forced NGA member Sherwood Martinelli to quit his pottery and sculpture business in 1998 in Ohio, it opened up another world of professional opportunities. After taking some time off to travel in Europe and the western United States, Sherwood decided to go back to school to stretch his mind's muscles after years of working with his physical and creative muscles. While in school, he met his wife, Josephine, and his life began to shift into an unexpected, yet somewhat familiar realm.

Sherwood moved to Peekskill, New York in 2000 to be with Joesphine, and yearned to get back into using his creativity and working with kids. While in Ohio he had co-founded Earthbound Pottery, and he traveled across the country offering pottery demonstrations, often geared towards kids. "I love the magical look on kids' faces when they realize they can create something beautiful, be it a garden or a piece of artwork," says Sherwood. Sherwood also is a seasoned gardener and his new home Peekskill left him a bit frustrated by the lack of gardening space.

As fate would have it, while discussing some renovation work for the Bronx Community College Child Development Center, where his wife, Josephine works, he struck up a conversation about the environment with the director, Jorge Saenz De Viteri. The Center was set up by the college to provide care for the children of parents, staff, and faculty while they were in school. It has a large parcel of rundown woodland adjacent to the Center.

Quickly Jorge and Sherwood knew they shared the same vision for the land -- to create an outdoor classroom for the kids. "We see a natural area with gardens that would be used as an educational and artistic resource for the students. Not only will these city kids learn about the environment and where their food comes from, they can express themselves through artwork using the garden as a tool," says Sherwood. Jorge hired Sherwood that day as a teaching assistant. Although the wages were well below his usual income, he was inspired about working on this new creative project.

The gardens are still in the planning stages, but Sherwood's energy is contagious, and he's primed to go. "We see community gardens for the residents in the area to grow their own food, a nature center for plant identification, and a greenhouse for older kids to work in the winter. Also, with the resources of the National Gardening Association, I can see gardens designed with curriculum and activities in mind to foster their learning experience," he says. "I already have some of the NGA's educational books, such as Schoolyard Mosaics: Designing Gardens and Habitats, and plan on applying for some grants to jumpstart the process," Sherwood adds.

Although this summer he'll spend most of his time planning the garden, Sherwood intends to plant bulbs next fall and gear up for planting the first of the gardens next year. The gardens and fundraising will start small, but with Sherwood's passion it will be no time at all before kids will be gardening and creating artwork, learning more about food, the environment, and themselves.

Sherwood welcomes ideas and guidance for designing and planting this school garden. If other members have any suggestions e-mail him at [email protected]

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