Taking Green to the Playground and Beyond

August 25th, 2011

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There has been a lot happening lately under the banner of “green.” At New Village we agree green is extremely important. We seek out projects, however, that go a few steps further than simple green to encompass whole-systems thinking and integrated ecological change. In this vein, last fall New Village published Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation by Sharon Danks, a design guidebook that addresses the holistic realm of outdoor teaching and play environments. The book has also been called a “call-to-action” which is the kind thing inspired ecological thinking leads to.

If you attended school or have a child in school, you’re probably familiar with the picture on the left: a bleak plot of asphalt, intended as a playground for children. Danks has other ideas, and Asphalt to Ecosystems is a guidebook to converting barren wastelands into dynamic living ecosystems. As Danks writes, schools and playgrounds are an ideal place for students to learn about environmental renewal: “they are responsible for educating our society’s future leaders… students learn that they have an impact on their environment and have opportunities to heal it.” Beyond teaching children about the environment, green playgrounds also re-invigorate the idea of play. The opportunities for play and growth on that hard tarmac are limited to linear, often competitive games; on a green schoolyard, children have multi-surfaced, diverse areas for open-ended, cooperative play.  Teachers have many more resources for teaching right in their own (school)yard, and who wouldn’t want a garden as a break room?

Further, schoolyards effect more than students and teachers: everyone lives near a school. Which school would you rather live near—the one with the yard in the picture on the left or the one on the right? Incredibly, both photos were taken at Commodore Sloat School in San Francisco: the green picture was taken only a year and a half after the transformation to a green schoolyard began. Choosing the green path involves embracing community stewardship as a neighborhood value. Danks explains that the traditional blacktop models rely on a few maintenance workers to trim and fertilize patches of grass and bushes, and to sweep the paved surfaces. The newer paradigm requires sharing responsibility among a network of people: “empower[ing] children, teachers, and families to take on a portion of the increased work load.” Again, in this example, green takes on a much larger and more important meaning as the school grows to encompass larger swathes of the community.

We’re so happy to be co-hosting the upcoming Engaging Our Grounds International Green Schoolyard Conference. The conference, September 16th to 18th, will fill in all the blanks that you need to get the green schoolyards movement going in your community. There is still time and space to register, and it’s really not to be missed. The conference includes presentations from the foremost international green schoolyard designers and researchers and tours of exemplary schoolyards in the Bay Area. So, register for the conference, buy the book, and collect your bonus freebies: check out Asphalt to Ecosystems on Facebook and New Village Press on Twitter!

Lily Yeh and Arlene Goldbard at Bioneers!

August 23rd, 2011

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New Village Press is proud to announce that two of our authors, Arlene Goldbard, author of New Creative Community and Lily Yeh, author of Awakening Creativity, will be presenting at the prestigious Bioneers Conference, being held in Marin October 14th to 16th. The Conference explores the forefront of positive change in deeply inspiring keynote talks, panels, workshops and intensives. Arlene and Lily will be presenting together at a session on Saturday the 15th titled “Participatory Public Art: Community Healing and Transformation.” Arlene will also be presenting Saturday afternoon at “Culture: The Crucible of Change.” This year’s plenaries include Gloria Steinem, Paul Stamets, and many other luminaries.

If you are not familiar with Bioneers, the mission of the group “is inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.” This conference is the chance to connect with leading-edge people and ideas, network with dynamic changemakers and discover powerful opportunities and strategies for creating positive change in your work, life and community. Bioneers is offering supporters of New Village Press a 20% discount to attend our conference. Just go to online registration and use the coupon code Arts20.

Stay tuned as we plan and announce more events with the authors around the conference!

William Reichard Talks Shop

August 17th, 2011

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A cornucopia of great New Village Press author interviews this week! Hopefully you’ve listened to the podcast we posted yesterday with artist and author Lily Yeh. Today we’re happy to share author and poet William Reichard’s interview at Literary Magpie. Reichard gives insight into what inspires him as a poet and the writing process. There’s something in the interview for almost everyone: Reichard addresses big issues like queer/gay sensibility in writing, his relationship with music, ghost stories, and even talks a little bit about cats! Reichard talks about the creation of his New Village anthology American Tensions and the importance of literature in the search for justice. William Reichard has a way with words: don’t miss these.

Awakening the Airwaves

August 16th, 2011

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Today, A World of Possibilities, a weekly public affairs podcast went live with an entire hour of Lily Yeh. We couldn’t be happier with the program, “Healing Arts, Healing Hearts,” which features Lily in her own words. This is a wonderful complement to Lily’s written voice in her new book Awakening Creativity. We hope you enjoy the piece, too. Listen here or at A World of Possibilities.

Lily Yeh Interviewed in Public Art Review

August 8th, 2011

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There reallLily Yeh at Dandelion School, Beijingy aren’t enough positive words to describe artist Lily Yeh.  Calling her an artist, or a community artist, or a community activist, or even an inspiration, while true, seems an understatement. The feature piece in the Spring/Summer issue of Public Art Review, “Public Art as a Spiritual Path,” by another New Village author, Arlene Goldbard (New Creative Community), pays tribute to Yeh perfectly, by letting her speak in her own voice.  We are so honored to publish Lily’s new book, Awakening Creativity, and to work with Yeh, and so proud to see her featured in such an esteemed magazine.

Excerpt of Arlene Goldbard’s article [Public Art Review, Issue 44, 2011, pp 19-20]:

Lily Yeh was born in China and grew up in Taiwan, which she describes as “an environment imbued with Taoist and Confucian teachings.  Buddhist thinking is familiar in the way we regard life… But in essence, all spiritual practice shares one sentence. In Confucianism, it’s ‘Do not do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.’ Isn’t that Jesus’s teaching, love your neighbors as you love yourself’? Ultimately it’s about compassion and love.”

Yeh, author of Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms (New Village, 2011), has been exposed to several varieties of religious thinking, but her primary spiritual practice has been her art.  “My real spiritual encounter was through the study of Chinese landscape painting,” she says.  “From the age of 15 until I graduated from college, I loved the tradition and threw myself into learning it. Through painting, I’ve come in contact with a very special place.  The Chinese call it ‘the dustless world.’ The dust does not refer to physical pollution: it refers to the mental pollution of attachments, passions and selflessness.  The paintings I studied, those that made my heart beat faster, although they are of this world—they are about trees, rocks, clouds, waterfalls, and mountains-are imbued with a pristine beauty, very powerful and full, but with an utter stillness, clarity, and serenity.  I feel such peace when I look at those paintings, a deep sense of tranquility and exhilaration at the same time.”

…A key spiritual practice for Yeh has been facing fear—a type of fear that has by now become a signpost, directing her to engage an opportunity fully.  She first encountered it at the site of her flagship project, the vast North Philadelphia complex of mosaic sculptures, murals, and gardens known as the Village of Arts and Humanities.  “Before [that project], I was just kind of doing what was laid out ahead of me,” she says. “When I was given the chance to go to inner-city North Philadelphia, I was frightened. I didn’t want to go.  But my heart spoke in a tender voice and said, “If you don’t rise to the occasion, the best of you will die, and the rest will not amount to anything.’ I mustered my courage and went to that abandoned lot.  The people I worked with and what I experienced there changed my life.”

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