Please enjoy A Living Library: Cultivating the Human & Ecological Garden, a Presentation by Bonnie Ora Sherk, Founder & Director ofLife Frames, Inc. & A Living Library.
During the month of February, 2016, people from different parts of California came together to transform a street and add to the Living Library Nature Walk on Bernal Heights in San Francisco. This ecological beautification project involved creating 12 new sidewalk garden beds on formerly sterile concrete sidewalks, and planting them with California Native Trees and Understory plants in front of Junipero Serra Elementary School on Holly Park Circle across from Holly Park.
Bonnie Ora Sherk, Founder & Director of Life Frames, Inc. created the design for the planting, and then connected with the various San Francisco Departments that helped make it all possible. The California Strategic Growth Council generously provided the funding for the project as part of their grant for the full Living Library Nature Walk throughout the neighborhood that is linking multiple schools, parks, public housing, streets, and other open spaces leading to the currently hidden Islais Creek at the south side of St. Mary's Park. *
In December, 2015, the SF Department of Public Works, led by Urban Forester, Chris Buck, removed the concrete in order to create the new 12 garden beds - and enlarge some of the existing tree basins. SF Unified School District Landscape Department led by Rick Maia delivered compost from Recology in order to improve the soil quality in the new garden beds. Now it was time to get planting. 93 Students from Junipero Serra Elementary School led by A Living Library Teacher, Kristin DeRose took part in the planting. It was the students excitement and enthusiasm to help beautify their school that really moved the project forward. Once planting was complete, the SFUSD Landscape Department donated and delivered a huge pile of wood chips, which the students used to mulch the new garden beds. There were so many extra wood chips that the students mulched all of the trees on the block !
Through this whole, hands-on learning and transformation project, students discussed the importance of planting natives to improve air quality, increase water percolation, restore the natural Watershed, and re-attract native wildlife species to the area. They also learned about diverse native California plant species, drought tolerant plants, and how this street planting will help improve the quality of life in this neighborhood. The children were thrilled to be so empowered by their actions !
Students planted 5 trees, 18 native shrubs and 75 native Understory plants. We plan to keep continue planting on the side street bordering the school as part of the Nature Walk.* This Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park is a prototype for the whole Islais Creek Watershed, the largest in San Francisco that interconnects eleven communities: Bernal Heights, Portola, Crocker-Amazon, Excelsior, OMI, Sunnyside, Glen Park, Noe Valley, Mission, Potrero Hill, Bayview. It is envisioned that this Nature Walk will be expanded to connect these communities by developing a new, expressive, resilient landscape interconnecting them where they have been disconnected by freeways and other streets. We are also proposing that the Chavez/101 Freeway Interchange and the Alemany/101 Freeway Interchange become the Northern & Southern Gateways to the Islais Creek Watershed.
As A Living Library Garden/Ecology/Multi-Arts/Nutrition/Health Teacher, I plan each lesson with an educational outcome in mind. For instance, last week I wanted the students to learn about different kinds of edible roots; we looked at examples of plants with “taproots,” like carrots, “tubers,” like potatoes, and “bulbs,” like onions and garlic. My goal is that each lesson in A Living Library Garden & Think Park at Juniperos Serra Elementary School has a hands-on component as well. For my root lesson, we started with a discussion and photos, and then planted potatoes and garlic in the garden. After I gave instructions and handed out garden tools, I was immediately met with opposition by three students in the class.
Hands on their hips, disgusted looks on their faces. “I don’t want to get my hands dirty!,” they exclaimed. “Me too,” another retorted, “I hate when I get dirt on my fingernails!”
I showed them my hands, thoroughly covered in dirt. “REAL gardeners” I explained, “get their hands dirty, we will wash out hands after garden class.” Then, I went to get the other students started on planting. Without much thought I turned around, and to my surprise the three “anti-dirty” students were hands deep in the soil, giggling and playing with a worm they had found. Minutes later I heard them enthusiastically call my name, “Ms. Kristin! Look at my hands,” smiling, they waved their soiled hands in my face, “I am a real gardener too!”
I love how quickly children are willing to change their minds. Adults are so set in their ways, myself included. We have steadfast opinions about what we like and don’t like, and we are not easily swayed otherwise. I think this trait can be detrimental, as we may miss out on new opportunities and experiences.
I would like to think that in five years, while my A Living Library Garden Students may not remember what a “taproot” or “tuber” is, they will have held on to the sensation of having their hands in the soil. They won’t be afraid to get their hands dirty, and they will dive into the opportunity to spend time amongst plants.
By Kristen DeRose
A Living Library SF Fall ’15 After School Paid Internship Programs: A.L.L.Eco-Stewards & A.L.L. Green Futures
I am very pleased to invite you, your friends and relations to the opening reception of Public Works - Artists’ Interventions on September 16, 6-8 pm, a group exhibition at Mills College Art Museum in Oakland, California, curated by Christian Frock and Tanya Zimbardo, and the following week, to my illustrated talk on selected works - Past Present Future - on September 23, 7 pm, in Danforth Hall, adjacent to the Museum.
The exhibition features Sitting Still l (pictured on attached pdf announcement) and the Sitting Still Series among other artists' works. At the time that I created this work (1970), I was exploring the nature of what a performance could be, where it could be, and who could be an audience. With this work, I thought I was simply demonstrating how a seated human figure could easily transform an environment - but as it turns out, I was really doing much, much more.
What I learned some years later, is that I was actually facing my future:
Sitting Still l took place in a neglected garbage area where water had collected due to the construction of the 101 Freeway Interchange at then called, Army & Potrero. Sitting in the overstuffed armchair I found there, I faced the “audience” of people in slow-moving cars, and I also faced:
- • Exact site of what would become Crossroads Community (the farm)
, a pioneering urban agriculture community farm, art and education center, and farm park that I developed beginning in 1974
- • Northern frame of Islais Creek Watershed along Cesar Chavez Street.
- • 101 Freeway Interchange at Army & Potrero that was being built, and that I am currently proposing to become the Northern Gateway to the Watershed.
- • And, amazingly enough, I was actually sitting in water from the Islais Creek,
in a pond created due to the heavy construction. Today, I am seeing multiple opportunities to daylight the Creek throughout this Watershed to address flooding, climate change, and habitat restoration, and am working to achieve that goal.
Because of all of this powerful and profound synchronicity, I now consider Sitting Still l to be my Watershed Piece, all meanings and puns intended.
Please come to the opening on September 16, 6-8 PM and see the show, and return again for my talk on September 23 at 7 PM . I will discuss how all of this early work has led directly to what I am creating today and for the future with A Living Library, aka, A.L.L.
I look forward to seeing you soon ! Thank you. http://mcam.mills.edu/events/
Sending love and appreciation,
Oakland, CA—August 14, 2015.
The Mills College Art Museum is pleased to announce Public Works: Artists’ Interventions 1970s – Now on view from September 16 to December 13, 2015. Organized by the Mills College Art Museum, Public Works examines strategies of public practice by women artists from the 1970s to the present. The exhibition presents photography, prints, audio, video, and installations from a number of important historical and contemporary projects that explore the inherent politics and social conditions of creating art in public space.
Public Works moves beyond traditional views of public art as monumental and/or permanent artworks and instead focuses on often small but powerful temporary artistic interventions online and in the urban environment. Through various tactics, Public Works explores themes of public space, public expression, public action, public platforms, and public life through the evolving lens of participatory projects, socially engaged performance and political action, among other media.
Christian L. Frock notes, “When considering artists’ interventions in public space, the limits on public expression come into sharp focus, particularly if we also consider the recent backlash against peaceful protests and the rising dominance of private interests. Public Works broadly considers how artists subvert these limitations to advance freedom of expression on a number of salient issues defining public life, specifically in relation to encroaching technologies, personal liberty, gender equality and the environment, among other themes.”
“The desire to work independently outside of traditional venues and formats, to pursue collaboration and to encourage audience participation, informed the development of public practice since the 1970s. Key long-term projects in this survey demonstrate the potential for art to intervene and engage with public policy,” adds Tanya Zimbardo.
The fully illustrated exhibition catalogue of the same title features an introduction by Mills College Art Museum Director Stephanie Hanor, PhD, essays by curators Christian L. Frock and Tanya Zimbardo, and conversations and texts from María del Carmen Carrión, Courtney Fink, Leila Grothe, Valerie Imus, and Meredith Johnson.
The exhibition is supported in part by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.
@millsartmuseum; @publicworks_art; #publicworksintervene; #womenatwork; #millsartmuseum
Book Cover: Bonnie Ora Sherk, detail Sitting Still I, 1970. Courtesy the artist.
RELATED PUBLIC PROGRAMS (Visit http://mcam.mills.edu)
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | 6:00-8:00 pm
Artist Talk: Bonnie Ora Sherk
Wednesday, September 23, 2015 | 7:00 pm
Danforth Lecture Hall, Mills College
Performance & Panel: On Freedom of Expression and Technology as Public Platform:
Featuring a live Skype performance by Enar de Dios Rodríguez, a special multiple produced by Leah Rosenberg, and a panel discussion featuring exhibiting artists Amy Balkin, Tania Bruguera, Stephanie Syjuco, and Favianna Rodriguez.
Sunday, October 4, 2015 | 3:00 pm
Danforth Lecture Hall, Mills College
Curators Talk: Christian L. Frock and Tanya Zimbardo
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 | 7:00 pm
Danforth Lecture Hall, Mills College
Jenifer K. Wofford: MaxiPad
Southern Exposure Off-Site Commission
Sunday, November 8, 2015 | TBA
Constance Hockaday: You Make a Better Wall Than a Window - The Tour Southern Exposure Off-Site Commission Sunday, December 6, 2015 | TBA Location: SF Ferry Building
Artists in Exhibition: Amy Balkin, Tania Bruguera, Candy Chang, Minerva Cuevas, Agnes Denes, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Karen Finley, Coco Fusco, Guerrilla Girls, Sharon Hayes, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Jenny Holzer, Emily Jacir, Suzanne Lacy, Marie Lorenz, Susan O’Malley, Adrian Piper, Laurie Jo Reynolds | Tamms Year Ten, Favianna Rodriguez, Bonnie Ora Sherk, Stephanie Syjuco, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Off-site commissions by Constance Hockaday and Jenifer K. Wofford.
ABOUT THE CURATORS:
Christian L. Frock is an independent curator, writer and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is presently 2015 - 2016 Scholar in Residence at the Center for Art & Public Life at California College of the Arts. Her work focuses on the role of artists in social justice and public life. Invisible Venue, the alternative curatorial enterprise she founded and has directed since 2005, collaborates with artists to present art in the public realm, online and in the built environment. Her writing has been featured in the Guardian US, KQED Arts, NPR.org, Public Art Dialogue, and San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Frock has organized numerous interventions and site-specific commissions, including projects with EMERGENCY USA| Thoreau Center for Sustainability, Headlands Center for the Arts, Kala Art Institute, Oakland Main Public Library, and Mills College Art Museum, among others. She is presently visiting faculty at California Institute of Integral Studies, California College of the Arts, and San Francisco Art Institute. Chronicle Books released Frock’s first book, titled Unexpected Art, in March 2015. Her work is archived on www.invisiblevenue.com and www.visiblealternative.com. Frock possesses an MA in curatorial practice from Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Tanya Zimbardo is the Assistant Curator of Media Arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She co-curated four off-site SFMOMA commissions in outdoor and non-art spaces for the 2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, David Wilson (2013) exhibition. At SFMOMA, Zimbardo co-organized Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards and The More Things Change, among other exhibitions. She has curated numerous screenings of film, video, and performance documentation at the museum and other venues. Her research and writing is primarily centered on conceptual art, performance, experimental media, and artist-run projects in California since the 1970s. She has co-authored and contributed texts to several publications including SFMOMA’s Open Space and most recently West Coast Visions, Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul. Zimbardo received her MA in curatorial practice from the California College of the Arts.
Museum hours are Tuesday-Sunday 11:00 am–4:00 pm and Wednesday 11:00 am–7:30 pm. Admission is FREE for all exhibitions and programs unless noted.