Gan Tikvah, the Garden of Hope, was officially dedicated Nov. 3 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.
Cancer survivor Bonnie Sedlmayr-Emerson was the inspiration for the garden. Her husband, Randy Emerson, oversaw the project. “The garden celebrates the arts, which is important to the JCC spiritually, emotionally, and cognitively,” the center’s President and CEO, Todd Rockoff, previously told the AJP.
Emerson was the first JCC president when the facility was built 30 years ago and was on the building committee from 2013 to 2015 during the fitness center and second-floor expansion. After a break, he felt he had another project in him. Grateful for the outcome of his wife’s successful cancer battle, he looked for a way to give back. “We came up with this concept and went out to the community. There was enough support and it was a great addition to the JCC in expanding the sculpture garden,” he said. The garden was funded by $285,000 in donations. Kristi Lewis helped with funding and donated six sculptures by her late stepmother, Norma Lewis, for the garden.
“I’m very pleased with the way it turned out,” Emerson said of the garden. “It definitely was a team approach, having wonderful artists like Barbara Grygutis, Lynn Rae Lowe, and all the subcontractors who literally worked overtime to get it all done.”
Lowe created the donor wall installation, in the motif of a cactus. “It is such an honor to be a part of a project with such an important message,” she said. “Hope is what keeps us going through all times of trouble. The hope I believe in the most is the youth. It was so poignant having Bonnie’s granddaughters, Sasha and London Emerson, unveiling the donor wall.”
Grygutis, renowned for large-scale public artworks and sculptural environments throughout North America and internationally, designed the garden. Jennifer Patton of Wilder Landscape was the landscape architect. Realm Environments completed the construction.
“Everything I sign always says ‘hope, always hope’ and that’s what got us through,” said Sedlmayr-Emerson. One man attending the dedication approached her and said he was diagnosed with cancer 30 days ago and needed to be there that night. “There now is a place for him, a place for everyone. This is not just about illness. People have so many times in life that they just need a place to be away from the everyday stuff and to just come here and sit and enjoy this. Daytime, nighttime, listen to the birds.”
The Tucson J is located at 3800 E. River Road. For hours of operation, visit www.tucsonjcc.org or call 299-3000.
— Damion Alexander contributed to this report.