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Posts Tagged ‘community’

72 Hours Gallery

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The concept is novel and yet very appealing to me: an empty space is invaded by a group of artists that build and create new pieces of art over a 36-hour period. A temporary gallery is developed, and during the following 36 hours the public are invited to view the work produced.

So far the 72 hours gallery exhibits have taken place in Hamburg, where the first makeshift gallery was created, and more recently in Mitte, Berlin with host artists from the 44flavours arts collective.

In the words of “Sneaky” (aka Simon Houghton), who performed live improvisational music at the gallery’s launch in early February, “72 hours gallery is a breath of fresh air in the all too often stuffy world of art galleries and exhibition spaces.”

44flavours (www.44flavours.com) is an art collective based in Kreuzberg, Berlin. It consists of Sebastian Bagge and Julio Rölle. Combined, the duo have a great knowledge and understanding of many forms of art, creating unique and stimulating visual works using whatever elements are available to them. They grew up surrounded by graffiti, immersed in the sample and remix culture of hip-hop. This is evident in the style they have developed over the years, a look and aesthetic uniquely their own.

44flavours invited Sneaky to join them at the 72 hours gallery launch, hoping that his music would add another dimension to the event. Sneaky says, “I decided to bring along just my cello and an old wooden metronome that belonged to my grandmother. The timing on the old metronome was pretty abstract to say the least, and so playing along to it is an exercise in concentration but somehow the wonky clock sounds marking time and me scraping away on the cello trying to get lost in the ever temporary moment made a lot of sense at the time.”

The founder of the 72 hours gallery series and main organizer of the event, Kai Klinke, says, “Street-art, painting, photography or video, the artworks evolve free and spontaneous. Our goal is to give our artists as much space as possible. Whether our artists will work alone, in groups or with the audience is completely up to them”

Ben Seebode, a DJ with Hot Source, who spun records during the event said, “I loved it! We witnessed some nice painting and silkscreen printing on wood, glass, paper, the walls. One thing that stuck in my mind was how well the combination glass and the wood objects went. I think printing on glass can be very clean and cold, but in combination with the wood and 44flavours graphics it worked really well.”

All proceeds from the exhibition were donated to Licht für die Welt, a non-profit-organization providing eye surgery and therapy in third-world countries.

Klinke isn’t sure where the next event is going to take place, and is currently looking for new sponsors.  For more information and to find out where the gallery will be stopping next check out their site www.72hoursgallery.com

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

Bookcrossing–Set your books free!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I started Bookcrossing about a month ago and haven’t stopped telling people about it since. Bookcrossing is the act of leaving books in public places for others to pick up, read, and then do likewise. It’s a great way to get people reading, and to share the books that you’ve read or aren’t interested in keeping anymore.

So how does it work? First you go to the Bookcrossing site (www.bookcrossing.com ), set up an account, and register the book you wish to set free. You’ll be given an ID number; you then write a  journal entry on your profile about the book. On the inside cover of the book you can either print out a label from the site, or hand-write a note which will tell the reader that the book is free, and that if they register the ID they can write about what they thought of the book once they have read it.  When they are done reading, they can once again set it out into the world to be picked up and read by another person.  Books can be tracked by journal entries all over your city and in some cases the world.

There are two different ways to release a book: wild releases where you leave books in designated places in the city for people to pick up, and controlled releases where you recycle a read by giving the book to a person, or group of people you know.

Bookcrossing was started in America by Ron Hornbaker in the spring of 2001. He was inspired by two community-driven and public-motivated schemes; first the Amsterdam bike system, where the public are encouraged to get around their city using bikes which are available to them at different pick-up and drop-off spots around town, and secondly by the “Where’s George? & Where’s Willy?”  money-tracking projects that were set up to trace US and Canadian dollar bills as they move around the country.

The Bookcrossing site has created an international network, a place that allows you to track books all over the world.

In Canada we just came to the end of the country’s annual Freedom to Read Week (Feb 21st-27th), a week that encourages Canadians to think about intellectual freedom. Bookcrossing along with the Freedom of Expression Committee saw this week as a great time to ask people to share books that are considered to be challenged books.

By registering challenged books such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and sending them out into the world, these organizations  hope to  make others aware of books that have been in some cases blacklisted within schools and libraries across the country. What a great idea! There are many challenged books that I have read over the years that I could pass onto others via the Bookcrossing site, maybe you should check it out too!

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

Postcrossing: Real Mail From Real People

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I have been an avid letter writer since a small child; I grew up with family that lived overseas, and I also had many pen-friends all over the world. From very early on I became accustomed to the excitement associated with receiving mail from abroad.

There is something truly special about hand-written notes, thoughts relayed straight from the heart, to the hand, to the paper. No room for editing or re-writes, genuine human to human contact… it’s permanent, and I think we’ve lost a lot of this warmth and effort in our tap-tap send culture.

Someone else who feels the same way about connecting with others through mail is Portuguese born, Slovenia based, self proclaimed computer geek, and lover of the written word, Paulo Magalhaes.  Whilst at University Paulo decided to take his off-line hobby online, and created a website that would enable people all over the globe to connect through sending postcards.

Postcrossing (www.postcrossing.com) is a site that allows people to “Send a Postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world.” It’s a pretty cool project and really simple to get involved; the idea is that if you send a postcard, you will receive at least one postcard back from a postcrosser elsewhere. First you have to register your address and set up a profile, say a little about yourself,  and state what type of postcards you’re interested in receiving (for example,  postcards of animals, city images, country landscapes or famous people.) Then you request an address. This address is connected to the postcrosser’s profile, and has an ID number attached to it. You then write your postcard, include the ID number, and once the person you have sent it to receives the card, they register the number and somebody else in the world gets your address, so that you too can receive a card.

The site has been running for over a year and so far has registered over three million postcards. There are many nifty Postcrossing stories on the site, like the Finnish and Australian couple who wrote to each other and ended up getting married, or the old man in his 60’s who has been enamoured with lighthouses since childhood, and now receives nothing but pictures of  the sea front buildings from all over the globe.

So far I’ve received two postcards, one from a 50 year old woman living a small village in Japan, who’s interested in architecture from around the world, and another from a 21 year old girl living in Poland, who loves music and small animals. Part of the fun is you never know who’s going to write to you next!

So why would you want to Postcross? As I’ve said there’s something exciting about receiving mail from another country, maybe from a place you’ve never been before, a far away country with customs and traditions that are different than your own, it’s also a great way to establish new friendships whilst learning about another way of life.

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

The Shrinking City, Part I

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009


Growth in American cities is often just an assumed fact. For many urban regions, the most pressing question of the last several decades has been how does one handle a growing megalopolis? However, the recent economic turbulence gripping the nation has helped shed light on a slow, simmering problem in a number of former manufacturing-based cities in the Rust Belt of the Midwest and Northeast. What happens when a city shrinks?

Several factors — some dating back to the 1950’s and before — have contributed to the ongoing woes of Rust Belt cities. Manufacturing’s steadily decline as a dominant industry in America, federal policy favoring suburban migration, and the Sun Belt’s rise as a center for both industry and population are just a few of the reasons why many Rust Belt cities struggle with the hollowing-out of their cores. For example, according to the U.S. Census, from 1990 to 2008 Detroit alone lost more than 100,000 residents. The Detroit News reported that in 2008 over 3,000 homes were torn down in the city. The problem is only exacerbated by the recent mortgage crisis. RealtyTrac calculates that the number of bank owned homes and those in pre-foreclosure in Detroit currently exceeds 10,000. The result is a large amount of vacant properties or empty space throughout the city.

Detroit is not the only place facing this problem. Other cities in Michigan as well as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York (among others) are dealing with this same situation.  Some cities in the Sun Belt are also suffering due to the mortgage crisis and a recent over-reliance on the construction industry to fuel growth. One solution some are offering to counteract this crisis is to embrace and facilitate the “shrinking” of the cities in question.

To a great extent, this makes sense. Poorly maintained vacant buildings are a burden to many and can be havens for crime, environmental distress, and a general blight on existing neighborhoods. But, before one brings in the bulldozers, it would be good to think in a holistic, sustainable manner. Is it any better to simply have vast expanses of empty land, or worse, partially cleared tracts of rubble? What might be done with these new empty spaces?

Many have offered suggestions that revolve around greening the urban areas. Perhaps the former vacant blight could be reclaimed as green space while the thriving parts of the cities morph into nodes connected by light rail, rapid bus systems, and bike trails. Zoning could be changed in the existing, successful nodes to permit more infill development allowing for growth in the future while the new green space throughout the city remains untouched. Along with development as parks, some of the green space might also work well as vast urban gardens. Thinking in terms of holistic solutions, preserving clusters of structures may be a good idea. Could some of the residences be saved and offered to charitable organizations? Could creative new public/private/non-profit alignments be forged to the benefit of local government, businesses, and residents? Habitat for Humanity has already seized this opportunity in some neighborhoods.

And what about the arts?

Could artists and musicians be a part of the solution? Many cities already look to the arts as a tool for economic development and to a lesser extent, community development. Economists have noted that a crucial element in the development of successful arts communities is a lower cost-of-living. If artist-friendly public policy initiatives leveraging existing vacant housing stock were to be  greenlit in Detroit, could the city become home to a network of thriving arts districts in the next decade? What types of initiatives might be considered?

The second installment of this admittedly brief commentary will look at a successful arts-based urban redevelopment plan in a formerly blighted neighborhood. Until then, take an afternoon and examine your neighborhood, town, or city. Are there new opportunities for change? Although the Joni Mitchell song claims that you “don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone,” this time around, if we take some time to plan and be involved, we might know what we can have because it’s gone.

Michael is a doctoral student in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington. You can follow him on Twitter here, visit his website here, and listen to his band here.

Rock Concert AND Bake Sale

Monday, August 3rd, 2009


My wife and I came up with an idea by accident a few years ago that has turned into a great way to make new friends, enjoy music, support your community, and throw down in a culinary way. Bored with playing the usual show format, Jen (my wife and co-conspirator in Shiny Around the Edges) thought that it would be grand fun to host a bake sale and maybe play some songs with our friends during it. After discussing a bit further, we thought… why not get a lot of our friends – who are all in bands – to join us and donate the evening’s proceeds, both door and bake sale, to a local food bank. So the first “Rock Concert AND Bake Sale” was born. We invited five other bands to play half hour sets and provide a bake good so as to ensure a tightly packed night of music and tasty treats.

Well, we didn’t expect what happened next. People came streaming into the venue and the bands brought baked goods that were expertly and lovingly prepared (some with signs giving detailed histories of their origins). In every case, the bands provided way more than the requested one baked good per band and then completely rocked-out in supreme fashion on stage. We unwittingly raised several hundred dollars for the local food bank and had an absolute blast.

The next year, we attempted the same thing and lo and behold, things went off even bigger…. with an odd competitive spirit emerging. Once again, we chose five other bands of varying genres and experience levels (intrinsic for fostering new friendships and developing a sonically diverse evening) and asked for corresponding baked goods. For whatever reason, this time normally stoic and kind friends were shepherding unassuming patrons in a cutthroat fashion to their baked goods on the main table in a competitive bid to “win” the bake sale. This mirrored the growing near-anarchy on stage wherein all of the bands seemed to let loose with reckless abandon. A searing post-riot grrrl band ended the night with a set that included heavy bass lines, swimsuits, cowboy hats, walls of guitar chaos, and the inadvertent near-destruction of everything on stage. All of this causing Jen and I to exclaim, “This is the best bake sale ever!” And, indeed, it was. The next morning we, as a community of musicians, were able to give several hundred dollars more than the previous year to the local food bank.

This is something that anyone can do, anywhere, in any town or city. This is something YOU can do. Baking, like playing music, is a fun social activity that can serve as a catalyst to help others in your community. Gather your friends together, hit up the local club or house venue, and start baking. Who knows, maybe at the end of the night, the kindest, gentlest musician you know will forcefully and triumphantly state to all in earshot that he is, in fact, “King of the Bake Sale!!!” This happening right before the band on stage melts down in a Grace Jones meets Stooges frenzy leaving everyone wanting more and hungry for cupcakes.

And really… who doesn’t want a cupcake?

Michael is a doctoral student in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington. You can follow him on Twitter here, visit his website here, and listen to his band here.