Students can now enjoy a new amphitheater garden in the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, following a launch event Thursday afternoon.
The UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative held an opening event called Dream Revolution to introduce the renovated amphitheater, which has several garden beds on its highest level. The event featured a fair and performance of Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Students, staff and faculty will be able to form a team and adopt a garden bed to grow vegetables and herbs.
Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost of HCI, collaborated with donors Jane and Terry Semel to renovate an area of the Sunset Recreation Center and create the amphitheater garden. Jane and Terry Semel have also donated to the university to establish the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
In 2014, the success of HCI’s Eat Well, a program started by Slusser, prompted the University of California to announce a UC-wide Healthy Campus Initiative, Slusser said.
The UC Healthy Campus Initiative encourages campuses to visually represent their efforts to make their campus healthier. For instance, UCLA has already showcased mental health sculptures and established bike paths as part of the initiative.
Slusser said she advocated for the garden because she wanted to continue showcasing UCLA’s efforts and improve students’ quality of life.
Slusser said HCI collaborated with Dig, a student-run campus garden coalition, and One Gun Ranch, a biodynamic ranch in Malibu, to lower expenses in developing the garden.
“Some of the data shows that 10 minutes of being in a garden reduces stress so we hope that this is an opportunity for people to enhance their well-being by gardening or just being there,” Slusser said.
Melissa McDonald, the program manager for the Horticulture and Gardening Program at UCLA Extension, said Extension students helped plant several of the beds as part of a class called “Gardening Practices and Techniques.”
“It’s still in its infancy, and I’ve volunteered to be on the board for the community garden to help develop it more so that all different people on campus can join the community,” McDonald said.
Caryssa Lim, a graduate student in public health and a member of the Public Health Nutrition club, said she appreciated the work HCI has done to support nutrition.
“We would love to use the educational tools (of the garden) for teaching undergrads where food comes from and how to support sustainability on campus,” Lim said.
Slusser said the decision to include a play in the launch event gave the UCLA theater department an opportunity to revisit its tradition of performing in outdoor spaces. She said the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center was previously a popular performance location before the amphitheater fell into disrepair more than five years ago.
Kevin Gallagher, a second-year chemistry student, said he attended the event to support his roommate, who performed in the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He added he was surprised to see all the different booths that were involved in the initiative.
“I hadn’t heard about anything about HCI until I got to the fair today,” Gallagher said. “From the booths, it seems like our campus is really healthy, definitely healthier than I realized.”
Students interested in adopting a bed can find more information on the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center’s website.