Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Meet the man behind the art garden on the Hyperion Bridge in Atwater

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On the median on the Atwater Village side of the Hyperion bridge, Jeff Harmes built a garden. It's an act he calls "taking nothing and making it into something that everyone can get something out of, that can inspire everyone."

Having lived on the streets for 30 years, Jeff says grew to hate litter. He used to sweep street gutters with a piece of cardboard and remove trash packed into the forks of trees. He thought of them as small acts that would go mostly unnoticed.

On a whim last spring, he started tilling the median — or "the island," as he likes to call it ... although "oasis" is more like it, now. He made rock sculptures from stones he scrounged out of the L.A. River. In celebration of spring, he made a peace sign out of flowers. 

He says he doesn't know much about gardening or landscaping. He learns as he goes and looks to commuters for suggestions. In the absence of running water, he relies on rainfall.

Vibrant succulents sit next to kitschy items like gnomes and plastic flamingos. Intricate formations of seashells and stones contrast starkly against the neatly patted dirt. A young girl even donated her seashell collection for the peace sign. 

Recently, though, a vandal smashed the peace sign and wrecked Jeff's plants, including his squash crop. With help from the neighborhood, Jeff has been able to rebuild the garden. New plants have sprouted and the stonework has been repaired.

Jeff says his new goal with the garden is for people to draw something positive from it. "I want hate to be transferred into something beautiful," he said. Moving forward, he hopes to expand it down the island. 

(Note: This post has been edited. The original called it a "meridian," which is an invisible geographic line. "Median" is correct.)

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