Sunday, January 29, 2012

Operation Conservation SES

For several months, two teachers in a 5th grade class, a green builder, a retired school administrator and two errant artists have been working with about 40 students to plan and start executing a revitalization of a derelict interior courtyard of a relatively new school building into a garden and incubator for "sustainability". This is a fascinating project on several levels and I'll only be commenting on a few of them in this blog. The students have already set-up their own Website I am looking to see how integral "art" can become in this project. One sad, all-too-common default position for art is as "decoration"... For me, this project is an opportunity to see how far the boundaries of art can get stretched. Making a Debris Hut has offered one such opportunity for all students to encounter their own sense of design, problem-solving, team work...

"The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem-solvers who are confident and able to think creatively. These qualities can be especially important in improving learning." Arne Duncan - U.S. Secretary of Education

It impacts the last year of the Arts and Ag project in a very central way. In many of our charettes, there was that familiar moment when the ag people wondered what "art" or artists could possibly do for/with them. The artists, too, were immediately most comfortable with exhibits, better signage, festivals of arts... all pretty well-known and tried packages for arts. At best, it was a molecular arrangement, not a sub-atomic ah ha This is also an interesting experiment in the lure of Low-Tech in a Hi-Tech world. Human bodies and psyches have not changed that much over time. We are built for the low-tech. Can Operation Conservation slow things down? Celebrate the Organic, both in the earth and the humans?

Why Art is THE essential partner in this:
“Talking to trees and hiding in trees precedes saving trees.”

David Sobel

Recurring Questions for All Groups:
What elements of Conservation and Sustainability are most important?
How can they be expressed? how many ways?
Why will students and teachers would want to keep coming and coming back to the Courtyard once they've visited the first time?
Is admiring our work enough???
Is our information important and interesting? Can they use it?
What can visitors DO? This is really a "marketing" issue

Cool Sites to Look at and Visit:
Omega Center for Sustainable Living, Rhinebeck, NY
Green Museum Mount Tabor Middle School Rain Garden
Pacem in Terris
Storm King Andy Goldsworthy's The Wall That Went for a Walk" is just 15 miles away!!
Local Nature Centers in Cornwall and Bear Mountain

Fundraising Ideas: Already they are collecting and recycling
bottles ($100 by 2/24) One group has started making seed pots from newspapers to start seedlings in and possibly sell to people. There was some talk of making Conservation Note Cards.

Structures to Make:
Mount black netting on the Brick Walls to hang things, news, poems, art on.

What to do with the Compost area? Surround with old pallets to signify that wood is the hardest material to re-cycle. Maybe we buy or get a new fancy one like this Earth Machine and compare and contrast how each method works?

What to do with the Benches? Can we paint them? Use the dremel to carve quotations from John Muir, Rachel Carson and Ansel Adams?

Paint just black/white tree/spiral outlines on the Courtyard walkway and keep adding leaves and new textures --in chalk--throughout the year?
(A few students noted that the chalk would just wash away. We said: Yes, indeed! We’ll just have to keep doing it again and again, sort of like farming. And maybe even other classes can come and do it. So a Tree Outline at one entrance and a Spiral at the other. Perhaps, there's some Eco-Hopscotch game we can develop for people to play along the Spiral ... with recycled bottle caps as the reward?

We're talking and planning some kind of Branch Hut
in one of the darker corners. Is there a place for a Secret Garden? Can those model Brush Huts the students just made be the start of a Fairy Housing Project??

In early February we put up some airy wind objects from plastic bags and bottles. Do they scare away birds? Well, there were crows and a few doves around the other day...Paul (Nate’s father) is helping make bird feeders and bird houses. What about Bees? Butterflies? Chipmunks? Bears? Deer? and the Bobcats that seem to be making an appearance in the area?

A Sun Dial! How much more low-tech and magical can you get!
Make carved directional signs to indicate the four directions

Make things that evoke the Elements of Air (fabric strips),Water, Earth, Fire

Make things that make people Listen, Smell, Taste, Wait, Hunt, Get Surprised,Delighted

Make Opportunities for visitors to add something of theri own. "I did that"

Have a nature poetry center... to read, write leave poems.
Make up stories about what happens in the Garden when the school closes

Have Operation Conservation Cards to make and collect. Each card is about some different part of the Courtyard: planting, soil, birds, quotes from Muir, Adams, Carson.
Have Operation Conservation Cartoon strips and Activity booklets. Several of the students are into cartooning; the teacher has already worked with the whole class doing cartoon strips. Can this be a strong base for reflecting what the project is about?

Have a place for Nature News On Boards? Teachers bring classes who read the news and pick and discuss their favorite The Art Group creates logo-format for the information
an example Did you Know: Birdsongs Birds sing using the syrinx, the avian vocal organ. Singing is usually confined to males and is at its height during the breeding season, when it is used to attract a mate. Birdsongs are usually more complex and longer than birdcalls. There is evidence that songs are learned, while certain calls are inherited. A male chaffinch hatchling, for example, sings a "subsong" but only learns the true song by hearing and imitating adult males.

Results of 1.20 Survey asking other students and teachers what they'd like to have in the Courtyard:

Other classes can leave questions for Operation Conservation to research and answer
Have other Classes artwork Art group collects and curates theseHave Operation Conservation Experiments other people can do…
Oh yes, finally, there is big interest in having a chocolate fountain in the Courtyard.

Landscape Architect Barbara Restainio has been working on a study of the Waywayanda Creeek in the Warwick area for about a year. She's noted how it flows right through the Sandfordville School property ... and after looking at this blog sent these pictures of a related school project in Oregon.

Hey Colin and Rob, here's a good 5-minute youtube

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Arts and Agriculture Placemaking Develops

January 10, 2012
Since December, some of us have been meeting at a monthly potluck supper to see what the next steps might be for developing a better, more vibrant sense of place in Orange County by heightening the role of arts and agriculture. We've selected several of the conclusions from the Visioning Sessions during the summer and started talking and planning and looking for partners to develop plans and ideas. Here's what we are actively talking about from the conclusions of the Visioning:

“More Land-Based Festivals and Events“:

February 19, 2012, 11AM-3PM at Arrow Park, Orange Turnpike, Monroe, NY
Ice Harvest Festival. A mid-winter celebration of the beauty of the season and the faded tradition and skill of harvesting ice
Partners: Arrow Park and Museum Village and several artists Julia Kole of Arrow Park and Bob Schmick of Museum Village have started to put together this Festival. “Connections with Schools to educate about Ag and Arts”

Courtyard Gardens in local public school with underused courtyards. A place to start to introduce elements of gardening, farming, sustainability within the school and tied to curriculum.. We invite local farmers and artists to visit. This addresses the need for more education around both arts and agriculture. This has started with 3rd-4tth grades, Sandfordville School, Warwick, NY Partners: Jane Hamburger, Daniel Mack, Thom Woglom

“More Ag-based Local Products to sell at Farmstands.”

Museum Village is developing a series of workshops for farm families and veterans in handcrafts production. These start January 13th

Make Orange County a richer “web” of experiences. Develop Other Land-Based attractions in County to complement and model direct Ag-Based activities.

Seligmann Center for Surrealism Developing an art/tourism presence on the 55-acre homestead of Surrealist Kurt Seligmann. A committee has formed to create activities, events and permanent installations and a study center to attract people to the Seligmann Homestead where they can experience and learn about the history (and future) of Surrealism and particularly the Surrealists in Orange County.
Partners: The Orange County Citizens Foundation and 12 artists Contact: Nancy Proyect
Two Related Black Dirt Experiences:

Black Dirt Bike Tours. Cheryl Rogowski and Pat Gallagher are planning Bike Tours that visit area Farms and Artist Studios.

Black Dirt Rail Trail. Matt Kierstead presented images and ideas on what a trail along the old Lehigh & New England Railroad
bed in Black Dirt might look like. Here's how far it might run and the Balck DFirt
delights you'd see: Magical!

Pending Activities and Interests:
Artists-on-the-Farms Partners: The Wallkill River School and 15 county farms Contact: Shawn Dell Joyce

The Warwick Summer Arts Festival. Now in its 12th year of presenting quality performing arts in farm settings. Contact: Liz Reese
Partners: Scheuermann Farms, Pennings Farm, Community 2000 and several artists

Steve Roe of Roe Orchards, Chester, NY, is interested in expanding the Arts in the-Orchard events he's been doing.

“More and Better Branding of Arts and Ag.”
1. Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce is interested in a Visit Warwick Valley campaign to include new events, activities, opportunities, restaurants, shops to motivate people to ‘come, go and come back soon.’
Partners: Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce, its members and several artists
Contact: Cedric Glasper

2. There was talk of a Weekly Concierge Newsletter: what to do in Warwick Valley this week for area visitors. Orange County Tourism has a way to do this.

The next PotLuck is scheduled for Monday night, February 6th at 5:30 pm in Sugarloaf.