Archive for the ‘Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park’ Category


Cultivating The Human & Ecological Garden: A Conversation With Bonnie Ora Sherk

The complete Conversation between Bonnie Ora Sherk and Pierre-Francois Galpin, is featured on the Independent Curator's International Website.

Below is an excerpt in which Sherk discusses A Living Library and its origin:

A.L.L.MasterPlanBryantPark1981-83"PFG: A Living Library, is a natural evolution of your previous projects, or “life frames”, as you call them. It is about bringing awareness of ecological systems through art into a public place; it goes back to your performances and installations in the 1970s. Could you talk about A Living Library and its different forms?

BOS:  In 1981, I found myself in New York City, and began spending time in Bryant Park, in the heart of the City, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, adjacent to the main research branch of the New York Public Library, not too far from the United Nations.  This site inspired A Living Library.  At that time Bryant Park was known as “Needle Park”, because that’s where all the drug dealers went to sell drugs.  There were no other really “good” uses of the Park; the dealers simply filled the void.  I spent time in this seedy, yet elegant Park, feeling the place and its energy.  Suddenly, I had an epiphany and saw how to make it come alive for other uses.  I would bring the inside of the Library outside and create gardens of knowledge, based on the Dewey Decimal System, which fit perfectly around the peripheral gardens of the Park. In each garden of knowledge would be plants that related to the subject, visual and performed artworks, programs of lectures, demonstrations, and research institutes, and digital technologies that would bring out information from the Library and also enable this environment to be interconnected with others in diverse communities around the world.

It could become The Living Library!  But, then, I realized that might be insulting to its neighbor, the New York Public Library, so I changed the name to A Living Library, meaning another library.  Then I realized, the initials spelled A.L.L., the embodiment of what I was hoping to achieve. I was thrilled!

I worked very diligently to realize A Living Library in Bryant Park, but, ultimately this did not happen, although many of my ideas were later incorporated into its eventual renewal, such as the interactive community programs, and the extremely successful and lucrative, international fashion shows during Fashion Week.

It took me some time to figure out how to clearly articulate what I was envisioning, because it was so complex, layered, and new to the vernacular of landscape architecture. I knew that I was working on something really exciting and relevant, so, I continued to develop the idea of a programmed landscape, which at the time, was very innovative and unusual.  I began to study landscapes from around the world and found many precedents for what I was envisioning, from Asia – in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian Gardens – and from the West – in Medieval Gardens, 17th Century French formal gardens, Renaissance Gardens, and others. 

I was inspired to actualize this work, so, I went back to school to become a landscape architect, as a way to hone my skills, and be taken more seriously by the establishment that controlled public spaces. I was interested in creating and transforming public places as interactive parks and gardens, integrated with local community programs, interdisciplinary, hands-on curricula, that provided opportunities for learning about natural systems, ecology, local resources, and multicultural diversity.

I made many place-based, Living Library plans for diverse sites and situations over the years, including, a 1995-96, San Francisco Civic Center Living Library Conceptual Master Plan, for another underused, derelict, and neglected Beaux Arts Park.  The idea here, was to create a 21st Century heart of the city, by outwardly reflecting and showcasing what is occurring in the surrounding civic buildings in the Plaza, and who San Franciscans are, as an international, multicultural community.  The Mayor at the time, Willie Brown, was not interested in this opportunity, although many others were, including many other elected officials, the Board of Education, Sister City groups and consulates, funders, and many others. 

Just after this, I found myself at James Denman Middle School, where the principal had heard about A Living Library, and asked me to begin one there. That began the OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park that linked a high school, middle school, and child development center on a contiguous nine acre site. I developed a master plan with the three-school community, and as a pilot, we created a Garden between the Middle School and CDC, and along the streets, digging up concrete to create a California Native Learning Zone Streetscape Transformation & ArtWalk.  Later, other asphalt areas were dug up and transformed into diverse learning zones.  The processes involved students and the local community in research, planning, design, implementation, use, maintenance, management, and communications of their OMI/Excelsior Branch Living Library & Think Park. It is still underway today.

A Living Library is a planetary genre, developing locally and globally. Each resulting Branch Living Library & Think Park incorporates local resources – human, ecological, economic, historic, technological, aesthetic – seen through the lens of time – past, present, future.  In addition to linking local resources and communities, a goal is to interconnect Branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse communities, through sculptural, green-powered digital gateways, so we can share diversities and commonalities of cultures and ecologies, near and far.

A Living Library is a life work, and a life’s work. In addition to transforming sterile, barren environments, we are improving education, contributing to the public realm, training and creating new green jobs, and performing community and economic development in locales where A.L.L. is established."

Read the interview in it's entirety here


See Evolution of Life Frames – Video Produced By Bonnie Ora Sherk

Evolution of Life Frames, produced by Bonnie Ora Sherk in 2002, shows the evolution of her pioneering oeuvre showcasing many works including: Early Life Frames of Portable Parks 1-111 (1970),  Crossroads Community (the farm) beginning in 1974, to the most evolved, and inclusive series of Life FramesA Living Library - an ongoing public, ecological art work in diverse locations that she began in 1981.  

Evolution of Life Frames has been shown in art museums, galleries, and other venues worldwide. 


New Grant For A Living Library – Lauren Bon & The Metabolic Studio !

Life Frames, Inc. is pleased to announce a grant from Lauren Bon & The Metabolic Studio for the Branch Living Library & Think Park Programs at seven SFUSD schools in San Francisco, PreK-12.  This generous grant enables A Living Library to work with over 1500 students monthly, year-round, during the school day, after school, and during the summer, in hands-on, interdisciplinary, standards-based learning, and ecological greening of their school and community.
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The Branch Living Library & Think Parks supported by Metabolic Studio are:
OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park in the Excelsior at Leadership High School, James Denman Middle School, San Miguel Child Development Center *
Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park in Bernal Heights at Junipero Serra Elementary School, Junipero Serra Child Development Center *
Chinatown Living Library & Think Park at Gordon Lau ES and Commodore Stockton Child Development Center
The Metabolic Studio grant is a complement to the funding from the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), which has funded the Branch Living Library & Think Parks since 2002 for the After-School Programs.
We are very grateful to our funders !  Thank you !
* NOTE:  The OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park and the Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park are both part of the Islais Creek Watershed, where Life Frames is also developing the Bernal Heights Living Library Nature Walk, linking schools, parks, public housing, streets, and other open spaces leading to currently hidden Islais Creek at the south side of St. Mary's Park.

Exciting Volunteer Opportunities with A Living Library !

There are many exciting volunteer opportunities for college students and others available this year with Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Library in San Francisco !


View the Flyer to find out more about these unique opportunities. You can also become a Technology Intern, and  help A Living Library expand its online presence and worldwide outreach. We are searching for hard-working, creative interns with experience and interest in all aspects of Web Design, that are skilled in Social Media Outreach, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ! View details here.

ALL Tech Flyer


Snapshots From June: A.L.L. ECO-ART Interns and Other Living Library Garden Happenings !

Busier than a hive of bees, more deluxe than a Chinese Jade, and even more glorious than a Marigold, this 2013 summer flew by in an amazing flurry at the OMI/Excelsior & Bernal Heights Branch Living Library & Think Parks.

Twenty hard-working, and exuberant middle and high school students from across San Francisco came together this month with the challenge to use A Living Library Gardens as a lens to explore a more profound understanding of themselves, and the world we live in.  Over the first month of their Internship, students learned about the environmental fundamentals of a garden, from living soil, to water resources, to ecosystems, and community connectivity.  

Art, Science, Cooking, and Mentorship Projects helped support ideas of environmental, social, and personal health and sustainability.  A.L.L. brought a fun twist to the big question of the future of our communities and our world. Take a look at the photo montage below to follow A.L.L. Garden Fun!


Welcome to A Living Library Lower Garden: Jasmine Flowers with Bunny the Bee, and Carrot Top photos taken by Student Steward Interns. 

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Our A.L.L. ECO-ART Interns showed no apprehensions; from day one, they dug right into garden work, such as seed and food harvesting, garden bed resurrection, and all-around, garden beautification. 

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IMG_1881Students became aware of healthy food supporting healthy bodies.  Instead of a soft drink, or coffee, they learned to try this refreshing Melon Slushie.   Just blend chunks of fresh cut watermelon,  honeydew, and ice! 

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Through an ecosystem health lesson, students learned that garden friends, such as invertebrates and birds, can be indicators of environmental quality. Students used recycled materials to create bird feeders and houses to encourage our garden diversity. 


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The more hands the merrier! Our Student Stewards discussed the importance of mentoring younger generations, from the symbolism of role models, to the idea of sustainability for our future communities and world.

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In an effort to help A Living Library shine at City Hall, a handful of our Student Stewards showed up to the Garden early one morning, collected flowers and herbs of every color and smell, and crafted beautiful bouquets to dazzle Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  We walked to BART, and walked some more until we reached the front door of City Hall.  Our students posed briefly for a photo opportunity, before entering City Hall, where they were able to deliver personal support of A Living Library through reading their letters, giving away bouquets, and meeting some of the Board members.  

What a way to get a deeper understanding of our city and community government and systems, learning how it affects local groups, down to each individual child who is part of A Living Library


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As a Thank You Gift to our Student Stewards, and Congratulations, for their first completed month of the A.L.L. ECO ART Internship, we took a hike to San Francisco's Glen Canyon Park.

From the front gate of the OMI/Excelsior Branch Living Library & Think Park, we left full of zest and excitement. We were shocked by the transition from city streets, to valleys deeply filled with trees. Glen Canyon made it obvious to our team, that wilderness and nature really is all around us, and can be just as much a part of urban lives, as rural lives.

We arrived back at our A.L.L. Garden exhausted and proud, walking a total of 5 miles in 4 hours ! What a hike ! If you have not yet had the chance to visit Glen Park in San Francisco, it is worth the exploration, a hidden gem dazzling us in its natural beauty.  And, the same Islais Creek that is under Balboa High School, is day-lighted here !  Pretty exciting to see and learn about !!!


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Thank you A.L.L. Eco-Art 2013 Summer Stewards, you have made the garden beautiful and full with your interest, care, and laughter! 

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Blog post written by A Living Library Garden Instructor, Courtney Calkins. 

© 2018 Life Frames, Inc. & A Living Library

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

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