BYU: Growing flowers and faith: Musical theater students build a secret garden at West Campus | News, Sports, Jobs


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Brigham Young University theater and media arts students planting the secret garden.

Courtesy Brigham Young University

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The secret garden made by Belle Frahm, Charlotte Westover and the theater and media arts student body. The garden is located next to the student commons at the West Campus Central Building.

Courtesy Brigham Young University

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Charlotte Westover and Belle Frahm building the secret garden.

Courtesy Brigham Young University
















In the winter 2023 semester, Belle Frahm and Charlotte Westover were assigned as dramaturgs to the fall 2023 production of “The Secret Garden.” Searching for a way to connect themselves with the musical, Westover and Frahm walked by an open space of land behind the West Campus Central Building and wondered if they could build their own secret garden. The idea soon turned into a reality that connected them to the show, their fellow students, the West Campus Building and their identities as children of God.

As Frahm and Westover talked with theater and media arts (TMA) professor Shelley Graham about their hypothetical secret garden, they realized that building a garden would help the cast feel at home in their new environment. The theater students’ recent move to West Campus after the demolition of the Harris Fine Arts Center has created a feeling of separation between the students and the rest of campus. West Campus is located in the old Provo High School, a 10- to 20-minute walk away from main campus. Frahm recalled petitions, complaints and deprecating jokes all noting how disconnected the students felt, but believed building a secret garden could create a space for community at West Campus.

After many meetings and discussions, writing and rewriting grant proposals and pushing for approval, the dramaturgs were granted permission to start building their garden. Frahm and Graham reached out to BYU landscape design student Spencer Broburg to create plans for the garden. Through long days of planning and planting, weeding and turning soil, Graham said they had created a “beautiful little patch of earth on West Campus with a tulip tree, a cozy bench, a winding path and a lovely garden.”

While the fine arts students’ residence at West Campus is temporary, the experience of building the garden and creating beauty in an empty space helped turn it into a home. “A song in (‘The Secret Garden’) uses the word ‘wick,’” Graham said. “If something is wick, that means you can see the life and the growth still inside what looks like a rough exterior. That’s what we’ve discovered — we’ve cut into the building just a little bit and discovered that it is wick.”

The students fought their way through challenge after challenge to build the garden. A long, cold winter with snow lasting through March delayed planting for weeks. Water posed another challenge: Utah droughts limited the supply of water the students could use to keep the garden alive, and funding for irrigation was limited. Despite the difficulties, the students pushed forward.

“We were trying so hard to make sure that we stayed positive because the Lord had led us this far,” Westover said. “He gave us the green light. We were going to get this garden up on its feet.”

Frahm advertised throughout the TMA department to get as many people as she could to help with planting. Her work paid off as not only cast and crew of the show came to help, but prior students, current TMA students, professors and people Frahm met from the community. “I worked alongside and became friends with people who I’ve never spoken to before,” Frahm said. “We helped the garden go from an empty space to a designated place for community and connection.”

For Westover, working on the garden was a spiritual experience, helping her understand her divine identity and building a connection with her Heavenly Father. “As a student body working on this project, we had to have a lot of faith, we had to really test that faith and we had to come together as students to rely on Heavenly Father,” Westover said. “First thing’s first, we as a people are children of God. That recognition of who I am as a person and who my fellow students are as people is something I will cherish forever because of this project.”

The garden is meant for every student at West Campus. Frahm and Westover believe building this garden and sharing it will connect all BYU students who see it. “We are separated from buildings, people, classes and so many things from campus, but we are still connected to it through the earth,” Frahm said. “The more that we cultivate it, appreciate it and spend time in nature, the more we will do the same with each other.”



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