Since it opened in 2009, the Octopus Garden in Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood supports life in many ways, some of which you might not expect. Beyond growing fruits and veggies, this garden grows community.
A number of the plots in the garden not only feed those who tend to the plants, but also families—young and old—who live in the neighborhoods bordering the garden and a need a bit of help lowering their food bills.
The garden also provides a beautiful backdrop for local schools to use in the spring and early summer as an outdoor classroom, where students can see the science they learn in books come to life before their eyes. Neighbors also use this space for get-togethers and celebrations of all kinds. Beyond being the home of many plants and trees, the Octopus Garden helps to grow and inspire art. Our garden chalkboard encourages kids of all ages to draw and leave messages for others to enjoy or build upon. The lending library keeps a continual flow of children’s books of all kinds circulating into the neighborhood.
Yet, our friends Octavia and Doris might very well be the most charming art features in our garden. Both of these beauties were created by Pittsburgh-based artists Lauren Jean McLaughlin and Bob Ziller with the help of neighbors in Friendship.
Octavia, our namesake, holds court in the center of the garden, visible to all who pass by. No matter which end of the garden you enter, Octavia greets you with a smile—a fringe benefit of having two faces and 8 tentacles.
Doris (a Fabulousa Lochnessa Kaleidoscopa Mosaica), a cousin of the infamous Loch Ness monster, doesn’t revel in the spotlight as much as Octavia. Built to be completely weatherproof, she lives in the back of our garden, where she can keep watch, shelter the occasional sparrow in her tail’s built-in bird house, offer a seat to neighbors looking for a place to relax, and entertain her friends with the kaleidoscopes inside her many peep holes.
Octavia and Doris transformed this space into so much more than a garden. They lend a special kind of magic and whimsy—they give our garden its identity.
Gardening with neighbors is fun all on its own, but when you combine it with art, the possibilities are endless. We know that our garden just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for these two sculptures.