Why Community-Building Does Matter

June 20th, 2014

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Children line up for water ice to help ease the heat at the 10th Annual Hike the Heights

Children line up for water ice to help ease the heat at the 10th Annual Hike the Heights in NYC

In Jason Karaian of City Lab’s recently-published article, he cites the pan-European survey on happiness, concluding that the data suggest an inverse relationship between individual happiness and local community closeness. While Karaian does close with an “Of course, happiness is determined by many more factors then [sic] whether you get along with your neighbors” disclaimer, the overall implications of his article are dangerous and irresponsible. Carried out to its logical conclusion, this claim suggests that local investment and community-building efforts are unnecessary, unimportant, and maybe even harmful.

At the most basic level, his data analysis falls short in that it makes no attempt to account for differences in wealth. Germany and the UK are both listed as nations where individuals report weak local connections and above-average overall life satisfaction while Latvia, Croatia, and Romania are listed as nations with the opposite- high degree of closeness with local area and below-average life satisfaction. If we look past the shortcomings of analyzing this data at the level of national averages- an insufficient method given intranational inequalities- and look just at national wealth measured in terms of GDP per capita, the differences between the countries chosen for comparison cannot be ignored. Using International Monetary Fund data to determine GDP per capita in US dollars, Germany and the UK land considerably above Latvia, Croatia, and Romania (Germany- $44,999; UK- $39,567 vs. Latvia- $15,205; Croatia- $13,561; Romania- $8,910). My hunch is that the stark inequality between the nations chosen for comparison has much more to do with overall life satisfaction than the reported strength of community closeness. Given the mobility that wealth enables, economic elites are able to operate with relative disregard to place. Not relying on social ties may work fabulously for the mobile members of the upper class, but it is not nearly as beneficial for the markedly immobile working-class poor.

Eric Klinenberg’s case study of the 1995 Chicago heat wave (read an interview about his book and work here) reminds us why community-building is important, especially for low-income individuals. During the week of July 14th-20th, 1995, 739 more Chicagoans than the average died and the heat was blamed. Klinenberg lists the US Centers for Disease Control’s description of the typical victim as someone who was “living alone, not leaving home daily, lacking access to transportation, being sick or bedridden, not having social contacts nearby, and of course not having an air conditioner.” Intuitively, the conditions of lacking access to transportation and not having an air conditioner apply most frequently to lower-income individuals, so poverty was clearly an important condition for susceptibility. More than that, though, Klinenberg demonstrated that despite the economic similarities between certain communities, those with lower death tolls had specific social and spatial conditions such as “high population density, busy commercial life in the streets, and vibrant public spaces,” while those with higher death tolls had been “abandoned—by employers, stores, and residents—in recent decades.” He continues, “[t]he social ecology of abandonment, dispersion, and decay makes systems of social support exceedingly difficult to sustain.” Disinvestment from a certain subset of low-income communities, then, produced a condition in which hundreds of people senselessly died while community building efforts in another set of low-income communities preserved lives, and that is a link between community-building and happiness.

Lily Yeh: Artist, Lecturer, Radio Star

April 16th, 2014

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423796_342130649166948_998715580_nWhere some see desolation and brokenness, Lily Yeh, author of Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms, sees potential for positive transformation. Lily has a bright, colorful vision for the world and she strives to instill this vision in others by empowering impoverished communities across the world to experience creativity through the creation and preservation of art.

Just last week, Lily was interviewed by Caroline Casey on the Visionary Activist Radio Show in a segment titled, “Dedicated Acts of Beauty Trump Tyranny and Restore Intimacy to the World.” During the show  Casey indicated the extent to which Lily has touched her life claiming that “Lily Yeh is among my favorite humans and most inspiring radio guests.” Lily went on to share her personal mission and experiences, including her struggle to remain dedicated to her projects despite certain challenges, as well as stories about her work over the years with Barefoot Artists, including her trip to Palestine which is happening this month.

“I must somehow harness the fear and then just get courage to go into this project and…by facing my own fear and not running away from that, I stepped into my life and I felt that from then on…my fear became my guide…That’s when I learned broken places become my canvas, people’s stories become the color, and people’s imagination becomes the tool and we can turn brokenness and despair into beauty and joy”  —Lily Yeh, Visionary Activist Radio Show, 2014Balata_3-500x333

Lily has also been invited to deliver the 2014 Dudley Memorial Lecture at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on Monday, May 12 at 7p.m, an event established in 1984 by Robert Whittier Dudley, and their six children to commemorate and perpetuate Argentina’s life’s work and interests, the objective of which is to provide memorable and enriching cultural experiences to diverse audiences. Lily will honor this objective by sharing stories from her inspiring work.

In the past few months, Lily has made great strides with her creative movement between appearing on the radio and on TMJ4’s Live at Daybreak, being interviewed by HsiuChih Lo for the October 2013 issue of Art World 279, and providing lectures and workshops  at screenings of The Barefoot Artist Movie. Here at New Village, we have enjoyed following Lily’s progress and look forward to witnessing more of Lily’s amazing work as she demonstrates the ways in which art functions as a catalyst for positive social change.

2014: Year of Jan Gehl

April 8th, 2014

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Jan Gehl1 smallIn an article featuring Jan Gehl, he is described as “the most influential architect you’ve never heard of.” However, we are pleased to say, that his efforts along with the collective efforts of Gehl Architects have not gone unnoticed as the people of Lublin, Poland, have nominated 2014 to be “Year of Jan Gehl.”

Jan Gehl, visionary architect and contributing author of What We See, aspires to create livable cities by improving their quality of life. He often writes and lectures on the subject of livability, indicating that public life is the key to improving it. Gehl addresses this subject by re-imagining city design to accommodate for the pedestrian and cyclist culture–a culture that he believes is the key to making healthy cities. Gehl has been pursuing these issues on a global scale since 2000 with the founding of Gehl Architects.

“The word livable is used more and more…it has to do with the notion of creating a city which gives a very good quality of life for those who are living there and those who are working there, and it is very important that it be for all age groups.” -Jan Gehl

At New Village Press, we celebrate Gehl’s ideals and commend him for his strides in urban design, and we are curious to follow the initiatives and the outcome of Lublin, Poland’s nomination.

The Green Schoolyard Movement is Gaining Momentum

February 11th, 2014

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Danks_Headshot_crop-a Author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Sharon Danks, recently announced the launch of Green Schoolyards America, a new organization formed to inspire schoolyard transformation across America from bleak asphalt to green spaces full of life! Sharon hopes that Green Schoolyards America will encourage community engagement while promoting the idea that schoolyard transformation can be used to connect children with their local ecosystems, while maintaining a curiosity for adventure, and learning to nurture their surroundings first-hand.

Through Sharon’s tireless efforts and dedication to this worthwhile cause, the green schoolyard movement continues to grow, and Sharon speaks to the need for this growth in two articles published by the Children and Nature Network. The first article, “The Green Schoolyard Movement: Gaining Momentum Around the World,” outlines the physical and mental benefits of incorporating nature into schoolyards and play spaces. Sharon describes the significance of these spaces in stimulating healthy growth and development in children:

Schoolyards are now one of the only places many children are allowed to play outdoors on a daily basis, and they are increasingly important for fostering  children’s health and development. With this in mind, I believe that schools have a responsibility to provide the next generation with outdoor experiences that help them develop their curiosity, their sense of adventure, a healthy lifestyle, and a love of nature.

Sharon also shares her views on how to successfully establish these green spaces and why it is important to do so:

Schoolyard greening creates rich environments that connect nature and environmental sustainability with place-based learning, hands-on curricula, and imaginative play, while building community…By teaching students to explore their environment with their hands, hearts, and minds—whether they are climbing into a tree house or diving into the challenges of the surrounding world—green schoolyards help us to plant seeds that will blossom as children grow up and help to shape an ecologically literate society.

In the second article in of her series, “Trends That Give Us Hope: The Power and Potential of Green Schoolyards,” Sharon continues to expand upon her discussion of the green schoolyard movement. SheAsphalt to Ecosystems believes that:

If, as a society, we can turn our attention and resources toward creating school district-wide, ecological systems-based improvements to school grounds, we will make significant progress in addressing complex inter-related problems…The time is right to invest much more significantly in our school grounds across the country.

Sharon concludes both articles with an invitation to join the movement and participate in the growth of this important endeavor:

This is a call to scale up our green schoolyard work from coast to coast, and empower school districts to lead this paradigm shift with increased support from their communities, public institutions, local utilities, healthcare institutions and other like-minded organizations and partners.

Be sure to “like” the Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation Facebook page for more information related to the book and the green schoolyard movement!

You can also receive updates by “liking” New Village Press on Facebook or “following” us on Twitter!

Community Supported Publishing

December 18th, 2013

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NVP_bookshelf

As an advocate of New Village Press, your engagement enlivens community. Your purchases of New Village books keep the Press alive. However, book sales alone only cover half the publishing costs, the other half needs to come from funding. Thats why, in a bid to underwrite the next year of publishing, we are calling all well-wishers, enthusiasts, advocates & patrons to join our Community Supported Publishing!

Support the mission to build vibrant, healthy and compassionate communities. Celebrate and reward the ingenuity and compassion of people rebuilding society. Help make the world a better place. Enable New Village Press to continue its work, which commercial publishers don’t risk, and join the creative, citizen-initiated, social transformation movement. Together, we can show how expressive arts can lift societies out of stuck places in ways that argument, armies, and legislation can never accomplish.

Please help spread the message and/or place your contribution here.

Book Review: Acting Together

December 10th, 2013

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Appearing in the Journal of Theatre Research International, Vol. 38/3 – 2013 is a review of  New Village Press two-volume set publication, Acting Together, by Anthony Ellis, Associate Professor – Renaissance Literature at Western Michigan University. Below is an excerpt.

“In keeping with its policy and education objectives, this project has produced resources in other media to complement the volumes. These include a feature-length documentary and an accompanying toolkit, and a website with news, interview clips, and event announcements, including film screenings. These resources testify to the politically and personally salutary effects of performance while offering a range of applications to artists, policymakers and educators.” 

Journalism Award For Beyond Zuccotti Park

November 25th, 2013

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zuccotticover

New Village Press is pleased to receive the 2013 Journalism Award for its title Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space from The American Planning Association – New York Metro Chapter. Special mention goes to co-editors Lance Jay Brown and Ron Shiffman for this timely, informative collection of original articles by 40 leading urbanists.

What We See Featured At Jane Jacobs Forum

November 22nd, 2013

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JaneJacobsForum-11_21_13-RobertaLynne_C

Last night – in conjunction with the presentation of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal – the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) hosted their annual Jane Jacobs Forum at The Times Center, New York. A panel of leading women in the fields of architecture and planning, landscape architecture, development, community development, business and the arts, discussed the topic of Women as City Builders.

Invited to bring What We See, New Village Press was honored to hear MAS President, Vin Cipolla, use the theme of the book as a launch for his introductory remarks. Contributing author, Roberta Brandes Gratz and co-editor, Lynne Elizabeth were delighted to chat with event attendees and even sign a few books!

Jane Jacobs Medal 2013

November 15th, 2013

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As publisher of What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs, New Village Press was invited by The Municipal Arts Society and The Rockefeller Foundation to attend the presentation of the Jane Jacobs Medal 2013 Awards Ceremony, honoring Bette Midler for Lifetime Leadership and Ian Marvy for New Ideas and Activism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Service-Learning in Design & Planning

November 14th, 2013

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97660100480850LThe Journal of Planning Education and Research shares Associate Professor of Wright State University, Mary Wenning’s review of New Village Press publication, Service-Learning in Design and Planning: Educating at the Boundaries.

Below is a short excerpt, the full online version can be viewed here.

“The editors and contributors raise the call for a renewed commitment to transformative, cross-disciplinary service learning in design and planning. To answer that call, design and planning educators must adopt new ways of thinking about teaching, learning, and working across disciplines. Educators who take up the call will find this edited series to be a useful resource. The primary focus of the book is service learning in design, but many of the lessons learned from the case studies are universal to service learning pedagogy.” 

 


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