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There is no shortage of artists using the tools of their trade to create social change. But each time I run across a story about Lily Yeh, acclaimed visual artist and founder of Barefoot Artists, I am humbled and inspired by her work, using the power of art to revitalize impoverished communities.
As Lily describes in a recent interview with David Kupfer, “Making art in destitute situations is like making fire in the darkness of a winter’s night. It gives out warmth and light; it beckons and rekindles hope. It does not directly solve problems but it creates a fresh, nurturing environment in which new possibilities and methodology can emerge.”
“My work engages people, whose participation ensures its sustainability. This is why I call my art living social sculpture. It usually begins with making art with people; it then expands to include other activities such as storytelling, education, construction and economic initiatives. The living fabrics of communities become the canvas of my work, creativity its fuel, people’s talent and imagination its palette and tools. In the poor communities where I have worked, this process often leads to an improved environment, a better quality life, and a sense of joy and hope for the future.”More
You may remember the children’s story...
Two soldiers walk into town empty-handed and in desperate need of a good dinner. The stingy villagers won’t invite them in to dine, but when the soldiers start cooking up a batch of Stone Soup, the villagers get curious and toss in a carrot here, a potato there, just to see what happens. Yadda, yadda, yadda...
In no time at all, the whole village settles in to enjoy a feast—and a community—cooked up seemingly out of nothing.More
Yes, Thomas Friedman has done it again. He’s made me say “YES!” and “THANK YOU!” aloud to myself in my office.
Why? Because he’s “all stocked up on crazy,” and so am I. Friedman's New York Times Op-Ed column “Is It Weird Enough Yet?”, published on September 13, cuts to the quick of the absurdity and ignorance of recent (and past) claims that climate change is “some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research.”
I happened to be reading this column while listening to The Climate Reality Project, a 24-hour, live, worldwide stream (currently in its 21st hour) featuring experts and scientists from 24 time zones. One of these scientists was explaining that with each degree of warming, the atmosphere can hold more water—an unsettling percentage more that I have since forgotten, or blocked out.More
Photo: Matt Kiedaisch
Many Vermonters haven’t had the time or space to fully process the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
They’re either still completely cut off from the world without services of any kind, they’re struggling to get access to critical supplies and services, or they’re in the throes of a massive cleanup effort—one likely to last for weeks, even months to come.
I’m one of the lucky ones, able to watch from the safety of a community not badly affected by the storm. My home is dry, my family safe—sadly, not the case for so many of my fellow Vermonters.
It’s not every day this small northeastern state lands a top story in The New York Times, and I wish it didn’t have to happen as a result of such severe devastation. (There are countless positive Vermont stories that merit national headlines and the attention of people across the country.) But, as is often the case, out of the seemingly impenetrable layer of bad news have sprouted some uplifting shoots of goodwill and true grit: the stories of regular citizens going out of their way—and in some cases, putting themselves in serious danger—to help each other.More
While I am incredibly fortunate to love my work—helping communities to enhance the characteristics that make them great places to live—it is no secret that I am always plotting my next escape to a river.
My adventures have taken me to six states and three countries. On every trip I’m struck by how at home I feel on the river compared to any other place. So how is it that somewhere new and frequently with a bunch of strangers can I feel such a profound sense of belonging?
A river trip can be defined by the quality of the river itself: its length, the rapids, the water quality, and topography. The Grand Canyon, the Rogue, the Selway and Middle Fork of the Salmon are highly sought after for these very characteristics. However, great river trips are defined by something much less tangible—the social interactions of the group itself. Communities, whether it’s a group of river runners, a neighborhood, or a town, require careful cultivation.More
A stop sign near a community health center in Ouje-Bougoumou in English, Cree syllabics and French: “Stop Stop Stop” (Photo by Dave Hoheschau)
Last year, my little family was relieved to finally settle down and buy a house in a small town in Vermont. I guess this was poor timing, since I just found out that Americans who settle down nowadays are ‘stuck’.
Being stuck means your prosperity is at risk—you can’t move for a new job or even the possibility of a job. Coined by urban theorist Richard Florida (“The Stuck and the Mobile”), he goes on to tell us that
“Many more people – if things continue as they are – will have to join the ranks of the mobile if they want to prosper or even survive....I’m saying it because it’s an economic fact.”More
Photo: Michael Dorausch
I recently tuned in to our local KBCO (World Class Rock) radio station and heard Death Cab for Cutie’s new song “You Are a Tourist”. These lyrics grabbed my ear:
And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home
Music has the power to touch people, wherever they are in their lives. Given the right moment with the right mix of experiences, lyrics can be powerful “shifts in the context of community.”
In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block writes about shifting the context of community and creating an alternative future through transformation. He claims that all “transformation is linguistic, meaning we can think of community as a conversation” (p 31).More
Two summers ago my wife Kate and I caught the cycling bug.
After years of ignoring our rusting bikes, something made us buy new road bikes (a terrific sale at a local shop) and begin riding around Addison County, Vermont, where we live.
Maybe it was friends, often couples, extolling the virtues, sheer fun, excitement and satisfaction of cycling. Maybe living in Vermont’s Champlain Valley influenced us: we are surrounded by world-class bicycle touring country.More