‘Art Drives Social Action’


Visit the Port Washington Library to see the Plant A Row for the Hungry exhibit

The Plant a Row for the Hungry exhibit. (Photo provided by the Port Washington Public Library)

From now until the end of March, the Port Washington Public Library is partnering with Plant a Row for the Hungry and hosting its exhibit in the Community Gallery, located outside the Hagedorn Meeting Room. The exhibit is titled ‘Art Drives Social Action’ and features art and testimonials of Plant a Row’s impact on the community.

Plant a Row for the Hungry supplies fresh organic produce for community food pantries grown by Port residents and at garden/farming sites throughout Port Washington. For 12 years, Plant a Row has been working with schools, local non-profits and businesses to encourage home-grown gardening of fresh produce. The local partnerships have also helped create painted pots that are scattered throughout the community to grow some extra produce and spread Plant a Row’s message.

Plant a Row’s volunteers and students learn the art of gardening and get the continuous message of why they’re doing it. In addition to providing pantries and families in need with fresh produce, Plant a Row’s mission is to mobilize the community to learn how home growing helps fight climate change and teaches kids the value of giving back. Going through the process of growing and delivering fresh produce is an enriching experience for all who participate.

Since its inception, Plant a Row has delivered more than 57,000 pounds of fresh produce to families in need, and over 250 residents have created more than 100 painted planters. At the library’s new exhibit, visitors can witness how the Plant A Row Program has impacted the Port Community.

Plant a Row for the Hungry Port Washington Founder Marvin Makofsky spoke with the Port Washington News about the new art exhibit and the inspiration behind the idea. While many residents are familiar with the large, vibrant painted pots around Port Washington, Makofsky noticed many people don’t understand the program’s scope.

“Early last year, it occurred to me that people think we were getting most of our harvesting from the painted pots,” said Makofsky. “There’s only so much you can get out of the pots; maybe it’s a couple of hundred pounds a season. It’s very symbolic of how people can plant in small spaces.”

Makofsky arranged tours of the facilities in Port that Plant a Row partners with to remedy this misconception. Places like the Helen Keller Center and the Adult Activities Center have gardens in their backyards where the members tend to the produce until it is time to harvest. Pantries such as Our Lady of Fatima receive the produce donations to give out to families in need.

“I started to take elected officials and community leaders on tours of all of the facilities that we serve, and we had the management of the facilities come out and describe our community project,” said Makofsky. “I discovered at the end of each tour with any of these people that they had no idea [our program] is as extensive as it is.”

To spread awareness and grow support for Plant a Row, Makofsky came up with the idea to create a gallery as a retrospective of the work and art the organization has done over the years.

Visit the Plant a Row exhibit till
March 31. (Photo by Julie Prisco)

Toward the end of 2022, Makofsky took his gallery idea to Port Washington Public Library director Keith Klang. Klang supported Makofsky’s plan and gave him a two-month showing in the library. It took about six to seven weeks to put the pieces of the exhibit together, with the help of Poster Signs based in Port Washington. The gallery is more than 30 feet long with 18 24” x 36” full-color posters of art and testimonials.

Each poster is a collage of photos of organizations planning and painting a planting pot or tending to a produce garden. Organizations featured in the exhibit include The Art Guild, Schreiber High School Honors Art Society, The Nicholas Center for Autism, Port Washington Children’s Center, Port Washington Adult Activities Center and the Helen Keller National Center.

“I’m showing a work in progress, not just photos of the pots. I wanted the public to see the process behind creating the array of beautiful art that has been created over the years and to appreciate art that drives social action,” said Makofsky. “The posters show the step-by-step development of the gardens, mapping it out, the creation of it, and the student adult participation in it. They show the maintenance, the harvesting, and some photos depict every end of our process.”

(Photo by Julie Prisco)

The organizations that participate in painting, planting pots, or tending to gardens have helped supply produce and spread the mission of Plant a Row to the community.

“The Adult Activity Center garden in Manorhaven has delivered over 1,800 pounds of produce directly to the pantry at Our Lady of Fatima across the street,” said Makofsky. “We plan on expanding that garden this spring.”

The Nicholas Center and Plant a Row have worked together for almost nine years. They have painted pots and learned to plant seeds. The Nicholas Center maintains about four painted pots on Main Street each spring and summer by watering and harvesting the produce for Plant a Row.

“We are in every corner of the community,” said Makofsky.
In addition to the poster collages, rectangular signage of testimonials from 14 community leaders, organizations and elected officials are featured in the exhibit. Below are some excerpts from the Plant a Row exhibit testimonials.

From the left: Stella Spanakos, Co-founder of The Nicholas Center; Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte; Library Director Keith Klang; Marvin Makofsky; Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti. (Photo from Mariann Dalimonte’s Facebook

Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Nassau County Legislator: “Plant a Row does so much more than feed the hungry in our community; it feeds our souls and helps to heal our planet.”

Sister Kathy Somerville, Pantry Director, Our Lady of Fatima Church: “Plant-a-Row is a brilliant concept that has changed our food pantry! Fresh vegetables, which are so important for our diet, were something we were never able to offer to the families we serve. Now, fresh vegetables are something that the families look forward to… thanks to Plant-a-Row.”

Nicole Thomas, Art Teacher Advisor-National Art Honor Society, Schreiber High School: “Students in Schreiber High School’s National Art Honor Society have been participating in the program for over six years and are always proud to design and create for a great cause. With this program, Plant a Row is teaching young citizens the importance of growing, cultivating, sharing and volunteering their time for the greater good of the community.”

Visit the Port Washington Public Library any day during business hours till Friday, March 31 to experience Plant a Row’s exhibit.

“For those organizations trying to improve or develop themselves, I think [this exhibit] shows them that maybe they underestimate how much good they’re doing for the community,” said Makofsky.

To get involved with Plant a Row for the Hungry, visit plantarowforthehungry.org