Roadside fruit and vege stands were common in the 1950s, many alongside the market garden or orchard where the produce was grown, forging a direct link between the grower and consumer. Produce was used to supplement what was grown in the backyard vege plot and housewives were well-versed in all methods of cooking and preserving fruit and vegetables and how to use the bounty in puddings, cakes and condiments. So much so that the recipe for beetroot chutney in Aunt Daisy’s Favourite Cookery Book (1954) provides the barest of instructions; ‘good housewives’ were expected to know the art of preserving and bottling.


On this Auckland street in south New Lynn, it’s not uncommon to see a table full of free veges or seedlings topped with a hand-lettered sign. This is where Charles and Grace Buenconsejo established Open Homes: not just a garden, not even just a community garden, but a community arts project with growing, living sculpture described as ‘a generative social sculpture engaged in growing a village’. Built on the ideas of gifting, exchange and sharing, Charles says that members of the local community have gifted produce from their own gardens, donated seed collections and brought food cooked using crops they have grown. Sometimes people just come to hang out and share their stories, telling of migrant experiences and sharing and preserving their culture.

The idea of Open Homes germinated from Charles, an artist and photographer, thinking, “What would it be like to step away from the idea of having an exhibition inside the four corners of a typical white, gallery space? Why not extend our creativity outside these institutional fences and break away from the clever art-making that will only end up in rich people’s houses as a property?” Viewing the soil as a living canvas that nurtures and nourishes all life and accepting the generosity of the seeds, plants, insects and all living beings as collaborators and co-creators, Open Homes now displays the social connection of its community and is proving an exhibition of enduring, renewable beauty. @openhomesnz