BAYarts develops sensory garden

During the early summer months of the Covid pandemic, community members sought refuge in the beautiful gardens at BAYarts. The gardens provided a welcome relief for weary residents seeking solace in nature and also the opportunity to safely reconnect with others.

However, the notion of healing gardens is not new to BAYarts. Visitors have historically described the grounds as inspiring and magical, with people regularly enjoying the gardens on their lunch break or taking a moment to read, write, draw or paint on campus.

In 2018, when the Cleveland Metroparks announced a 3-year Transition Plan to bring all of their buildings and public areas into ADA compliance, BAYarts was required to comply with renovations to the buildings they lease from the parks. As they began to research accommodations to the historic buildings, the seed was planted to bring a new level of accessibility to the BAYarts gardens as well.

BAYarts secured grant funding from the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) to send two staff members to the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Conference in Atlanta. During the conference, Education Director Linda Goik and Director of Operations Beth Milli had the opportunity to connect with arts organizations and entertainment venues from around the country on ways to provide better accessibility to their facilities and programming.

The notion of “Not for us, without us,” that was expressed by people with disabilities at the conference, informed the BAYarts team on how to proceed with their own Transition Plan. As a result, BAYarts began working with patrons with disabilities in their community to learn ways to create the best experience possible. In 2019, the OAC awarded BAYarts another grant to attend the LEAD conference in Denver to learn more. BAYarts wanted to go above and beyond the ADA code requirements to make people of all abilities feel comfortable while visiting the campus. In Denver, the idea of creating a sensory garden was born.

In 2020, Covid hit, and plans were sidetracked until this year when BAYarts was introduced to the Ground Works Land Design team who had recently completed a new landscaping installation at Huntington Beach. BAYarts is now working with Ground Works to develop a sensory garden and outdoor classroom in between the Huntington and Fuller Houses on the western side of the BAYarts campus.

Plans include butterfly/sensory gardens, interactive planters and water features, a fire pit, outdoor art, and more. BAYarts has received initial grant funding to jumpstart the project and will continue to fundraise in the upcoming months. Installation of the gardens is slated for spring of 2023.

“Our vision is to make BAYarts' offerings and the campus accessible to all, without discrimination,” noted BAYarts Executive Director Nancy Heaton. “This garden is the next step in our ongoing long-range plan.”

For more information on naming rights and making a donation to the BAYarts Sensory Garden please contact Nancy Heaton at

Beth Milli

Nancy Heaton is the Executive Director of BAYarts

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Volume 14, Issue 19, Posted 11:24 AM, 10.04.2022