I created the Art Garden in 1987 for three reasons. First, I wanted to write more. Having a deadline is very helpful to most writers; it means that at some point we must stop putting off writing and actually sit down and do it. Second, I knew several writers and performers whose work deserved a larger audience. Third, I wanted to encourage writers to perform and performers to write. Having done both myself, I know how one feeds the other. Reading words aloud makes a writer check for clarity, rhythm and pleasure in the lines. Reading work in public is empowering for writers. Writing is a solitary activity with communion as its goal. It’s nice to experience the goal with a living audience.
I encouraged performers to write because performing, while a pleasure, is ephemeral. The most magnificent performance dissipates in the evening air. Writing stays written.
It is wonderful for an audience to meet living writers. The printed page has a strange authority. Like music, it is easy to forget that people create it. Hearing writers read reminds us the word it is not a disembodied thing.
From the beginning, the Art Garden was an affirmative evening. I chose the garden metaphor because it implies growth, nurturing and diversity. The garden metaphor also guides the tone of the writing. While there are bugs and fungus in a garden, it’s basically a pleasant place to be. We liked leaving the audience with the same feeling about life.