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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
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
If you answered “yes” or “no” to any of these questions, then you should keep reading.
Engaging young people can be seen as both an obligation (they are stakeholders) and a boon. Young people can expand your talent pool; they can diversify and broaden participation; and they can identify new issues and new solutions that will offer a welcome departure from your town meeting regulars.
Beyond this, the effort to engage young people can force you to reconsider what you think you know about planning. In reaching out to young people, you will find that you are doing a better job of reaching out to everyone. Your message becomes more straightforward (not dumber), your answers less circumspect, and your communications more accessible.More
Storytelling and art can be powerful tools to help identify and act on shared values in a community planning process. The Foundation has been working with five communities in the Rocky Mountains and New England over the last three years integrating story sharing or art making into their planning efforts with great results. The process has built new relationships and bridges between divided groups; brought new voices to the project; revealed common values and connections; and built empathy and hope.
In a nutshell, it transforms the planning process.More
Photo: Biddeford students share stories they gathered for a class designed by Carolyn Gosselin.
I’m not sure at what age it happens, but at some point, you find yourself saying something about “Kids these days...” and it’s rarely the start of a compliment about the younger generation.
I routinely hear people complain about how teens are apathetic, consumer driven and that they would rather text with their friends than have a real conversation.
I’m writing today to share three stories from Maine that fly in the face of that common sentiment.More
You’ve probably heard of Braddock, Pennsylvania given the attention it’s gotten for its rising-from-the-ashes, against-all-odds resurgence over the past decade or so.
Much of the credit for this renewal has gone to Braddock’s Mayor, John Fetterman, who has committed his own money to projects ranging from an at-risk youth program to a church-turned-community-center to a non-profit called Braddock Redux, which puts up money for community revitalization projects and advances what Fetterman calls his “social-justice agenda.”
Susan Halpern recently wrote a story for The New York Times about Fetterman called “Mayor of Rust”. She lauds Fetterman and his folk-hero status—“a Paul Bunyan hipster of urban revival.” And this seems appropriate given his demonstrated commitment to Braddock, where poverty is the norm and 27 consecutive months without a homicide is really astonishingly good news.More
Stephanie Joyce in Juneau, Alaska. Photo: Kevin Elliott
I live life on a fairly short timescale. At 22, a year still seems like a long time, a decade almost interminable.
The idea of planning 30 or 50 years down the line borders on laughable. I don’t even know where I’ll be next year, after I graduate from Middlebury College. So I struggle with the idea of long-term community planning. In such a rapidly changing world, long-range vision strikes me as a tall order.More
Remember when you were a kid walking along a narrow, weedy sidewalk next to a busy street or a wide asphalt swath of surface parking and you knew, just knew, that this was not a gentle condition—that, in fact, it was a very threatening condition?
As you got a little older, you started to accept this as the American way of life: that cars rule and little you, on your feet or on your bike, were fair game to the motorized world; that curbs were meant to be cut; that strips of stores were meant to be lined up behind acres of asphalt; that melting snow (no longer white) was supposed to be swooshed on your new yellow seersucker bell bottoms (because it’s 1974) that you had to beg your mother for.More