Up to writing

I have a wee article published in the August edition of USIEF’s “Indian Fulbrighter” about my experiences in India – click here to read all about it.

Writer’s note about the editors : Small liberties have been taken. Don’t worry, I haven’t changed my name to be spelled with a Z.


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Filed under India, storytellings

Bees on a hot rooftop

My August 2010 (personally much-anticipated) workshop with Graze the Roof at Glide Memorial is on. After sessions with two student groups last Thursday, it was the right place and the right time to meet a few hundred live bees. Coincidence?

Graze the Roof is keeping bees now, to model an urban hive and further sweeten the generally wonderful education-on-top-of-a-roof deal. There will be an introductory class to demonstrate honey extraction on 12 September.

Bee hive high rise

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Filed under California, fauna, On the Move

This is the Bay

San Francisco is like this!

It's all full of fun and beautiful public art. Here you have some newfangled playground technology. Photo credit : Lael Goodman

This place is a nice menagerie.

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Filed under painting, storytellings, United States

City of Angles. Angels.

Strange fact : I sort of love Los Angeles. It’s horribly big, but that means there is a space here for everyone. It’s a sprawling mosaic of subcultures, and I’m lucky enough to have friends in subcultural places. It’s just – I just keep meeting all these people doing fantastic things.

I less-than-randomly walked into a community center called CARECEN last Monday, and the woman whose work I interrupted happened to be the director of a K-5th educational program that happens to be based in the methodology of popular education. It’s called Aprendamos, it’s a project of IDEPSCA, and I love it. I love it in that seriously impressed way.

Today I wrapped up a 4-day On the Move workshop with the 60 students there and left a tree of stories swaying, a little unnervingly, in the entranceway. Powerful, colorful stories. I learned so much this week from the students, from the incredible staff, and from my own reactions to the information being shared every day –

so much to consider.

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Filed under education, media, On the Move, storytellings


This time, I disappeared for a good reason (don’t I always?). Back in PA for 2 weeks, I produced a prototype run of a jewelry line that will benefit Sphoorti over the next few months, and hopefully long term.

I drew the designs of these necklaces from muggulu that children at Sphoorti had drawn for me before I left Secunderabad. A muggu – as it says on that card there – “is a symbol of welcome in Indian culture. These floral designs are drawn on the ground outside of entranceways based on a geometric grid of dots. Traditionally, the delicate white lines are formed by sprinkling rice flour, but contemporary versions often use chalk or paint instead. After practicing the basic patterns, children gradually learn to creatively combine & elaborate on them, forming stunning artwork at a truly grassroots level”.

Of course, all the proceeds go to the designers – at about $20 each, one piece can buy books & school supplies for one child, and selling half a dozen necklaces will fund a year of tuition.

They’re all out at Journeys Spirited Gifts in Lahaska, PA (thank you thank you thank you!) and I’m all out in Los Angeles, trying to be patient.

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Filed under India, Sphoorti Foundation

I do have

I do have a few more words about Detroit. The city itself really impressed me. I know, I know, that the influx of 20,000 people who care passionately about whatever it is they do, and care passionately about the lives of other people, is going to change the feel of a place in a way that I enjoy. I was told repeatedly that the city, at least the downtown was different that week – but the thing is, it was Detroit people telling me so. Everyone I met was curious, and friendly, and proud, and mostly a little annoyed that they hadn’t heard about the USSF to take part. We needed more media outreach for all our talk about media.

media outreach

Have you heard about the Heidelberg Project? It’s a two-block stretch on Heidelberg Street in Detroit, whose vacant lots piled with trash between a few rattling houses were transformed into a socially and environmentally conscious space for public art beginning in 1986. An artist named Tyree Guyton returned to his childhood neighborhood to clean out the debris and build it into symbol, color, sculpture, concept, polka dots : art.

The place was beautiful. Although portions of the project have twice been demolished by the city, it is voluptuous with discarded materials restructured and re-imagined and with its definite aesthetic. I see it as an example of the potential in post-urban spaces for innovation. Maybe places like Detroit have a opportunity to create a kind of community that hasn’t existed before, as an urban culture relaxes into open physical space?

I also see it as a perfect example of how I prefer to engage with art – and how I prefer art to engage with me. I want art to step up to reality, strike up a conversation, establish a relationship and move in to stay. Of course I like it to have an interesting story to share. What I’m realizing right now is that I’m interested in precisely the intersection between media and art; how does art express its story? How can media make use of symbolism and beauty?

Those questions were at the heart of what I found at the US Social Forum, and I’m looking for more. Thoughts comments ideas interesting links?

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Filed under media, painting, United States

Epidemic of travel

The need to travel that I picked up somewhere in Oberlin, Ohio all those years ago seems like it may have spread, or might simply be better reported these days. It’s become an epidemic, and it affects entire families. So, coming back to ask a pack of preschoolers about their experience of movement and migration was fruitful.

I spent this past week at the Oberlin Early Childhood Center playing our way through my storytelling curriculum, the first workshop in the US-based series about the experience of migration. There were three main sessions and an interwoven whirl of small-group activities, culminating in a 5-foot tree of stories modeled on the growth of a banyan.

First : I very briefly told the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana using a kaavad, a shadow puppet, and a comic book of a sort that’s nothing less than a modern-day Indian tradition. This is an incredible story to tell, even for someone as new to it as I am – the depth of details make the story flow easily to accommodate any tangential interest. The minds of 3 to 5 year olds led to entire chapters about the animals in the story, about Indian clothing and jewelry, about the colors, about swimming, and about traveling.

Second : The Ramayana is the story of Rama’s journey (translated from Sanskrit), the prince with blue skin. The story of this person forms the basis of the exalted epic, so during my second session with each class at the OECC I told a personal travel story about my visit to the biggest banyan tree in the world. I explained the way a banyan tree grows, from the roots to the trunk to the branches that push new roots down to the ground, and brought my mala beads from the temple at Thimmamma Marrimanu for everyone to touch.

Third : All the children, who had been joining me in small groups to create the supporting trunk of our art project with papier mâché, sat down to share their own travel stories. Individually drawn & narrated, these formed the external “roots” of the banyan, the basis for the tree’s future growth. The unique, professor-filled demographic of the area built a tree of journeys to the park, the basketball court, the movies, to San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Moscow, London, New York, North Carolina, India, Ireland, and even one boy’s voyage from the toddler classroom to the pre-kindergarten group. Each of them left the tree on Friday afternoon with a colorful handprint for their autograph patterning the bark. It was amazing. I can’t wait for more.


Special thanks for your amazing support :

The staff & students of the Oberlin Early Childhood Center (I’ve promised not to name any names just yet)

Janice Zinser

Jake Wise

Russ McCann & the Oberlin bike co-op








and of course, and as usual, the students of the Sphoorti Foundation who created this curriculum with me.

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Filed under bicycles, education