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Wildflower inspires new work of art in Woodhaven

Woodhaven welcomed a beautiful work of art to the community this weekend, as Emanuel United Church of Christ dedicated a portion of their property on Woodhaven Boulevard south of 91st Avenue as a Serenity Garden.
The sculpture, created by the talented Queens artist Yvonne Shortt, sits in the middle of the garden overlooking Woodhaven Boulevard.
“The artist’s inspiration came when visiting our garden last year, where she saw an Iris Versicolor, a wildflower known to grow along banks or in creeks,” said Ginny Mallon-Ackermann, fellow artist and member of Emanuel United. “As you can tell, the church garden has neither.
“The flower reminded her of the resilience of wildflowers and our community,” Mallon-Ackermann added. “From this wildflower came the inspiration for the carving on the front of the sculpture which symbolizes wisdom, faith, and courage.”
The young woman in this sculpture will overlook Woodhaven Boulevard at the base of the bridge, providing an interesting bookend to the woman whose face overlooks the boulevard from the elevated train.
That face was part of the Five Points of Observation installation by artist Kathleen McCarthy and has been part of Woodhaven’s landscape since 1990. We have a dearth of public sculptures or art in Woodhaven, so this is a very welcome addition to the community.
The Iris Versicolor, which improbably found its way to Emanuel’s Serenity Garden, reminds me of the large bush that grows on the side of the bridge crossing Atlantic Avenue each year. Surrounded by cement and the fumes of passing cars, trucks and buses, the bush has nonetheless taken root and thrived.
In many ways, these unlikely visitors are a reflection of our community, which is composed of many people from all around the world who, for one reason or another, found themselves blown here by the wind or fate.
Some of our roots here are deep, going back generations; while others came here more recently and are in the midst of planting their own roots. It’s a beautiful garden we’ve grown here in Woodhaven, and it continues to grow and thrive.
Emanuel United dedicated this statue and the garden to the essential workers of New York City.
“We recognize and thank them for their selfless dedication and caring, because it is from their efforts that our neighborhood and New York City was a safer and better place to live,” church officials said in a statement. “We are forever grateful for their efforts during this difficult time, and this beautiful sculpture is the perfect way to honor them for their service.”
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar spoke about our first responders and essential workers, and also commended the neighborhood for the way it pulled together during the worldwide pandemic.
I was honored to be asked to speak, and paid tribute to all of the essential workers that kept our community thriving over the past year. I paid special tribute to all of the workers in the stores on Jamaica Avenue, who remained open and kept their shelves stocked.
Their efforts allowed us to shop local and avoid the big chain supermarkets, which were also crowded at a time when we were desperately trying to stay six or more feet apart.
In particular we owe a debt of gratitude to all the cashiers, many of them young women, who showed up for work day after day during a period of time when we were all afraid to even handle money.
Those were dark days, but we all got through them. And if an Iris Versicolor can live in a terrain it has no business thriving in and a bush can improbably grow out of the side of a cement bridge, then certainly we can move past this pandemic and continue thriving in our very own Garden of Woodhaven.

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