A Living Library = A. L. L.

Everyone and everything on Earth and in Space is part of A Living Library of diversity: people, birds, trees, air, water, and all the things we create, such as - parks, gardens, schools, curricula, artworks, networks, communities, celebrations. A Living Library, or, A.L.L., for short, provides a way to understand that culture and technology are part of nature. It’s all nature.

A Living Library provides a powerful systemic framework, multiple methodologies and strategies for creating place-based, ecological change in communities and schools - locally and globally.

A.L.L. integrates local resources - past, present, future - and transforms them with community, to become vibrant, content-rich, art-filled, ecological learning landscapes; each Branch linked to another.


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A Living Library: Cultivating The Human & Ecological Garden – Presentation By Bonnie Ora Sherk

Please enjoy A Living Library:  Cultivating the Human & Ecological Garden, a Presentation by Bonnie Ora Sherk, Founder & Director ofLife Frames, Inc. A Living Library.


Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library Represented at Open Table (Tavola Aperta) in Venice Biennale 2017

Bonnie Ora at Tavola Aperta, Venice Biennale

As part of the 57th edition of The Venice Biennale, curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the Pompidou Center in Paris, Bonnie Ora Sherk, along with Marie Voignier, another artist featured in this year’s Biennale, were interviewed by Maria Pesavento, at the Open Table (Tavola Aperta) on October 07, 2017 at the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.

Bonnie Ora at Tavola Aperta

Bonnie Ora discussed her work and installation in the Arsenale, in the Pavillion of the Earth in La Biennale, called, Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future with the visitors, over a casual lunch at the Tavola Aperta.

Link to full video discussion on La Biennale Website:


Excerpts from her talk:

  • The installation - Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future:
View of Bonnie Ora's installation called 'Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future' in the Arsenale in La Biennale

Bonnie Ora explained two major works exhibited at La Biennale — Crossroads Community (the farm) and A Living Library. Crossroads Community (the farm), a pioneering artwork, involved development of an urban farm and art center that incorporated a major freeway interchange in San Francisco, beginning in 1974.

Giving an overview about A Living Library, she elaborated:

“A Living Library is a planetary genre. I work with place-based ecological transformation of communities and schools, and each unique intervention, or each Branch Living Library & Think Park, is place-based, linking the local resources of the community — human, ecological, economic, historic, technological, and aesthetic. When we look at those assets in each community through the lens of time: past, present and future, no matter where we are, we find incredible richness.  I work with the community to develop a Master Plan for transformation that incorporates the local resources. The processes of creating a Master Plan with the community is also a learning program for the community. The work has to do with the transformation of places that interlinks with systemically integrated hands-on programs and learning opportunities for all ages.”

Venice Biennale 2017

In her installation on A Living Library, three Branch Living Library & Think Parks are shown in addition to an Overview Section: the OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park (San Francisco), the Bernal Heights Living Library Nature Walk (San Francisco), and the Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park (New York City).

“The big idea is to develop Branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse parts of the world - locally and globally - and to link them through Green-Powered Digital Gateways, multi-functional, or multi-Funcshuional sculptural elements in the landscape that allow for bringing water forth from the earth as may be needed, showcasing local resources and processes of communities through multimedia archives, and also allowing for live interactive broadcast between places.”

Venice Biennale 2017
  • About her early work: Bonnie Ora called her early work Environmental Performance Sculpture —using a found or created environment, and creating a performance in the place systemically, which then integrated all elements creating a whole experience”.  As a pioneering conceptual artist in the 1970s, some of her notable performance pieces include:  Sitting Still Series, Portable Parks 1-111, and Public Lunch.

Discussing her work with live animals in Portable Parks 1-111, Public Lunch, and Crossroads Community (the farm), she emphasized:  “I wanted to create opportunities for people to understand the native intelligences of different species of animals, and to get over the human presumption that we are the center of the universe.”

  • Goal of her work: “My work now really lives in the community, more than in art institutions,” Bonnie Ora said. “The goal of the work is actually to educate people about ecosystems, natural system, interconnected systems; particularly young people and to make environments and processes more ecological.” She further mentioned working with thousands of PreK-12 students in public schools, educating them through hands-on learning, involving them in the ecological transformation of their local places, and empowering them through real-world experience. 
  Venice Biennale 2017

Elaborating on the goals of A Living Library and Life Frames, Inc. the non-profit sponsor of A.L.L. that she founded and directs, Bonnie Ora continued to say:

“A Living Library provides a framework for understanding linked systems — biological, cultural, and technological – It is time for us to begin working together and thinking this way.  The work is systemic, ecological design and it has to do with the transformation of places, and then transformation of people in the places. It is time for us to evolve as human creatures and understand how we all are interconnected, with each other and other species.”

  • Documentation of the work: Replying to a question regarding documentation of her work, Bonnie Ora said, “I take lots of pictures all the time, because it is all process. Everything is process and it is changing every minute, and so much is going on. Also, the students take pictures and other people take pictures. This work is evolutionary, and I am envisioning the multi-media digital archives that will incorporate these images that show processes and resources over time, on the Green-Powered Digital Gateways.  We want to hold on to this history and content, and celebrate it.”

In answering this question, she referred to the work underway now in the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School in San Francisco, and its transformation from a barren concrete expanse to a series of California Native Learning Zones filled with trees and understory plants, and she explained how the documentation is important to really see and understand the work over time.

  • Replying to a question about her biggest challenges: “I swim a lot because I find it is important to swim around the challenges. The biggest challenges are usually the adults who don’t understand or value the work. Related to that may be the lack of money, however, if you do something that is really good and powerful, it is magnetic, and everything comes to you. I actually have a lot of faith in the Universe. I believe that things happen as they should happen. So, I don’t get really worried about a lot of the details, and I don’t take it personally.”

To watch the full conversation at Tavola Aperta in La Biennale 2017, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w7wF0CFnKA&t=300s

Also see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIXkaySpH90  Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future on Venice Biennale Website


Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park : June to September 2017

Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017 at Roosevelt Island, NYC  

The Native Americans called Roosevelt Island, Minnehanonck, meaning ‘It’s nice to be on the island’. Once infamous for its prisons and asylums, the two-mile-long island in New York City’s East River, located between Manhattan Island and the borough of Queens on Long Island has slowly emerged as a home to high-rise residential buildings. Right in the middle of the town, on an L-shaped plot just south of 504 Main Street, there lies a beautiful patch of green — the Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park, an ecological artwork created by Bonnie Ora Sherk, her non-profit organization Life Frames, Inc., and community members that engages the local schools and adults; educating them about gardening, ecology, multi-arts, literacy, nutrition, and local history through hands-on, standards-based Common Core learning programs.

Bonnie Ora Sherk with a group of enthusiastic kids and their parents on Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017 at Roosevelt Island, NYC

Bonnie Ora Sherk came to Roosevelt Island in 2001, and the Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park emerged after a community planning process funded by the Ford Foundation, which supported developing a Master Plan for Roosevelt Island with the community.  After some planning meetings people said:  We don’t want to just plan.  Let’s do something that shows immediate results.  So, at the invitation of the then Principal of the  Roosevelt Island School (P.S./I.S.217), Bonnie and Principal, Sherry Gregory were determinated to develop a positive, creative, and life-affirming environment for the children, youth, and adults of Roosevelt Island, after the brutality and trauma of 9/11. Later funded by the RIOC Public Purpose Fund, the first RI Living Library Garden & Think Park witnessed a long history of involvement; students participating during the school day and after school as part of the Beacon Program,;patients visiting from the Coler-Goldwater Hospital, and enthusiastic parents participating in various activities around the Garden. A Community Master Plan for Southpoint was also developed in those early years.

On their way to RI Living Library & Think Park; Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017 at Roosevelt Island, NYC

When the school was under construction for many years, beginning in 2011, RIOC offered another location for the RI Living Library Gardens – behind 504 Main Street, adjacent to the building where the new RI Library will be moving when its renovations are completed in 2020. This new site is more accessible to the whole community and is also wheelchair accessible, so the Gardens are often visited by many from the large RI disabled community, including members from the Senior and Disabled Associations.   The late, Virginia Granato, former President of RI Disabled Association was a frequent visitor to the Gardens to pick up bunches of her favorite herbs. Every summer, the RI Living Library & Think Park shares its produce, mainly herbs and vegetables, with the participating Beacon children and their parents, seniors and disabled residents.

Bonnie Ora Sherk instructing the group before planting; Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017 on Roosevelt Island, NYC

The RI Living Library & Think Park has emerged as a powerful green center and learning landscape for the whole community. Accessible daily throughout the week, the quiet ambience of the Living Library Gardens have been instrumental in bringing together children and their parents, school groups, families, seniors, and disabled residents of the community, thereby successfully Cultivating The Human & Ecological Garden. Currently, the RI Living Library & Think Park has been working with many children year-around, encouraging them to exercise their science and art skills in the Gardens, while introducing them to science and other subjects. Regarding the project’s future plans, Bonnie Ora hopes to plant an Orchard, reflecting RI’s history of orchards, and develop International Gardens in conjunction with the diverse community of RI and the Library.

Kids planting the trees in RI Living Library & Think Park on Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017 at Roosevelt Island, NYC

Shown below are some pictures from Roosevelt Island Day in June, 2017 and pictures of the Living Library & Think Park Gardens in September, 2017.

Facebook : Roosevelt Island Living Library Planting 2017, NYC, RI Day

Volunteers planting trees in RI Living Library & Think Park on Roosevelt Island Day, June 17, 2017   Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park   Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park   Roosevelt Island   Roosevelt Island

Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library Receive International Recognition at Venice Biennale 2017

Venice Biennale 2017

Bonnie Ora Sherk and A Living Library (A.L.L.) have been recognized and featured in one of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world, The Venice Biennale 2017. The 57th edition of La Biennale, also known as the Olympics of the Art World, opened on May 10, 2017 and will continue through November 26, with an estimated attendance of more than 500,000 visitors. A Living Library is exhibited as a part of Bonnie Ora Sherk’s installation Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future, in the Arsenale in the Pavilion of the Earth, dedicated to the environment, ecological, and communitarianism movements one of the nine themed sections of the exhibition curated by Christine Macel, also Chief Curator of the Pompidou in Paris, France.  Additionally, Bonnie Ora has been invited to return to Venice and La Biennale to give a public talk on her work on October 7, and then will give another public talk and workshop on A Living Library in Zurich, Switzerland on October 12 and 13th at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste / ZHdK.

Her two-part installation in La Biennale also features Crossroads Community (the farm) — a pioneering collaborative artwork involving urban agriculture, multi-arts, and environmental education — that resulted in Potrero del Sol Park, adjacent to the Chavez/ 101 Freeway Interchange. From 1974 to 1980, Sherk was the Founding Director and President of Crossroads Community (the Farm) which has been recognized as one of the first Alternative Art Spaces in the United States. Her installation includes the original drawings she made for the Park. A video featuring her and her way of working has been published on the official website of The Venice Biennale 2017.

As Founder and Director of Life Frames, Inc., the non-profit sponsor of A Living Library, Sherk has been relentlessly working towards raising awareness about the importance of ecological green space with integrated education of natural systems, and encouraging participation from all sectors of community with each local Branch Living LibraryA Living Library, or A.L.L. for short, links local resources and systems - biological, cultural, and technological – resulting in place-based, ecological transformation of communities and schools with integrated community programs.

Partnering with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Bonnie Ora and Life Frames developed A Living Library Nature Walk,  that has emerged as a powerful and successful prototype for connecting communities in the Islais Creek Watershed, the largest in San Francisco. The project aims to expand and interconnect the eleven neighborhoods of the Watershed that includes Bayview, Bernal Heights, Crocker-Amazon, Mission, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, Portola, Sunnyside, Excelsior, OMI, and Glen Park through new, narrative resilient landscapes.  Further, it plans to transform the two neglected and flooding freeway interchanges of the Watershed — Chavez/101 and Alemany/101 — into Northern and Southern Gateways to the Watershed.

Since 2002, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has been collaborating with Bonnie Ora on the Bernal Heights Living Library Nature Walk. Congratulating A.L.L. on its recognition at La Biennale, Phil Ginsburg, General Manager, SF Rec and Park, said, “The Living Library Nature Walk showcases how parks can connect our communities, as well as the innovation of sustainable landscapes that can tackle many environmental challenges including climate change, wild habit restoration and so much more. The fact that this project and the associated SF parks will be on display to receive international recognition, is a testament to Bonnie’s commitment to the coalescence of arts and nature.

While improving the beauty and health of the public realm of each neighborhood, A Living Library also provides multiple learning opportunities for communities and schools with hands-on education about climate change, flood mitigation, watersheds, natural systems, native species, green skills job training, environmental justice, and ecological transformation.

Sherk describes A.L.L. as “Cultivating the Human and Ecological Garden”, a planetary genre meant to be created in diverse communities of the world, and interconnected through Green-Powered Digital Gateways, so that the diversities and commonalities of cultures and ecologies can be shared. She views the recognition of A.L.L. at La Biennale as a wonderful opportunity and honor, and looks forward to extend its reach locally and globally.

References: http://sfrecpark.org/press-release-sf-rec-and-parks-partnership-with-bonnie-ora-sherk-and-a-living-library-receive-international/ Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017   Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017 Venice Biennale 2017

Bonnie Ora Sherk Presents Lecture On Funcshuional Art In Museum Of Arte Útil’s Escuela at Yerba Buena Center For The Arts

Bonnie Ora Sherk, long-time ecological artist, landscape architect, planner, educator, and Founder & Director of Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Library, presented a lecture on Funcshuional Art as A Living Library at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on August 2 as part of Escuela d'Arte Util (School of Useful Art), part of Tania Bruguera’s Exhibition of the Museum d'Arte Util at YBCA. Her talk was live-streamed on the YBCA's website (see below). Bonnie Ora Sherk's work was also featured on a KQED radio broadcast and appears on the KQED website about the Exhibition and Arte Util.

Presentation Part 1 Presentation Part 2

Below are a few pictures from the presentation.

Bonnie Ora Sherk presents this week’s lecture on “usership” at Escuela de Arte Útil at YBCA. Bonnie Ora Sherk presents this week’s lecture on “usership” at Escuela de Arte Útil at YBCA. Bonnie Ora Sherk presents this week’s lecture on “usership” at Escuela de Arte Útil at YBCA. Bonnie Ora Sherk presents this week’s lecture on “usership” at Escuela de Arte Útil at YBCA.

Bonnie Ora Sherk – Public Talk at SFAI 2017 Summer Symposium

Funcshuional Art

Bonnie Ora Sherk, long-time ecological artist, landscape architect, planner, educator, and Founder & Director of Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Librarypresented  her pioneering work at the San Francisco Art Institute 2017 Summer Symposium, I Object !  Self Organization + Political Agency as Aesthetic Practice, in conjunction with Cuban Artist,  Tania Bruguera and others, on Saturday, July 15, at the San Francisco Art Institute.  This Symposium was also in conjunction with Bruguera’s exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Bonnie Ora Sherk will also give another lecture at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on August 2, 6:30 pm as part of  Escuela Arte Util (School of Useful Art), also part of Bruguera’s exhibition, and was additionally featured on a KQED radio broadcast and website about the exhibition and Arte Util.

At the SFAI talk, she presented her local and global, planetary genre, A Living Library, as Funcshuional Art, a term she invented, that marries East and West, North and South, with it’s multiple, practical, systemic processes, creative solutions and strategies that transform the environment, address climate change and flood mitigation among other benefits, while also educating all ages about natural systems and ecological stewardship.

Her presentation at SFAI included examples of Branch Living Library & Think Parks in the Islais Creek Watershed, the largest in San Francisco, including the OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park that is transforming four contiguous SFUSD schools and campuses with integrated learning for PreK-12 students (Leadership High School, San Miguel Early Education School, James Denman Middle School, Balboa High School), and the prototype Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park Nature Walk that is interconnecting multiple schools, parks, public housing, streets, and other open spaces through development of a new, narrative resilient landscape of California native trees and understory with interpretive signage leading to the currently hidden Islais Creek at the south side of St. Mary’s Park and Highway 280.

This Nature Walk will be expanded throughout the Watershed, to interconnect its eleven neighborhoods:  Noe Valley, Mission, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill, Portola, Crocker-Amazon, Excelsior, OMI, Sunnyside, Glen Park.  Also proposed is transformation of the currently derelict and flooding, Chavez/101 Freeway and Alemany/101 Freeway Interchanges into Northern & Southern Gateways to the Watershed.

Please come to Yerba Center for the Arts in SF on August 2 at 6:30 pm to learn more about Sherk's work with Funcshuional Art and A Living Library.  This talk is free and open to the public.

© 2017 Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Library

A Living Library, Life Frame, Think Park, & A.L.L. are registered trademarks

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