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032020-will-country-beat-back-extra-deaths?

No one gets to avoid death, but whether death occurs in war or in peace, some happen too soon and too cruelly for the survivors. Let’s do what we can to prevent untimely loss.

This poem is by Wilfred Owen, who died young in World War I.

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

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Photos: Shelter in Place Gallery
Shelter In Place is a miniature, coronavirus-inspired gallery. It was launched by artist Eben Haines, who built the maquette and invited artists to submit works to scale.

If I didn’t believe that for most of us the lockdown would last a lot longer than the current “opening up” stuff, I’d write a post about happy I am to read books to grandchildren again and how sorry I am to see artists abandon their wildly inventive pandemic pursuits.

But I’m pretty sure most of us will still be self-distancing for many moons and enjoying the output from creative people that might never have happened but for coronavirus. I love following @covidartmuseum on Instagram, for example. Some of the submissions are a little too weird for me, but most of them make me laugh out loud. Another great source is the arts website Hyperallergic, where I recently learned about a miniature gallery called Shelter in Place.

Valentina Di Liscia wrote, “In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery [@shelterinplacegallery on Instagram] was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

“Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. …

“The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.

‘With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home … So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table.’ …

“The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work. …

“Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints. ‘But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,’ he said.

“Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March … Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way. …

“All of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited. … So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. …

“Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST. …

“Said Haines. ‘One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up. …

” ‘We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,’ said Haines.”

Read the whole article at Hyperallergic, here. The pictures are amazing.

Wilhelm Neusser, “Untitled Bog Painting” (2020), oil on linen, a miniature.

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Photo: Dean’s Beans
Dean’s Beans and Peru’s Pangoa co-op offer coffee that’s carbon neutral.

I really love Dean’s Beans, and you’ve heard me talk about the company before. Not only do they have a delicious array of coffee beans from around the world and ship your order fast, but their nonprofit mission is a really big deal to them. They help the communities where they buy beans become increasingly self-sufficient, and they work to protect the environment.

An email that Dean sent out for Earth Day highlights one coffee that I buy in the French Roast decaffeinated version.

He wrote, “First, we want to extend our best wishes for health and safety to you during this time of COVID-19. Even though our beanery has (fortunately!) remained open, our new normal – masks, social distancing, split shifts, constant vigilance – is taking some getting used to. But we’re doing the best we can to take care of each other.

“Today, on the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, it is important to us that we still celebrate, and send some hope and positivity your way.

“So, let’s talk about our Carbon Neutral Coffee! You might remember this coffee better as ‘NoCO2,’ but this newly rebranded and re-named coffee is the same sweet, smooth Peruvian launched back in 2007 as the World’s First Carbon Neutral Coffee. The coffee was part of a massive reforestation program at Pangoa Cooperative in Peru. The goal? To offset all the carbon emitted throughout the entire supply chain from this coffee — from seed to cup!

“We calculated the entire carbon load from planting to drinking our Peruvian coffee, and neutralized it with native hardwood plantings. One tree planted for every 17 pounds of Peruvian coffee sold – enough to sequester 50 pounds of CO2 annually per tree! Fast forward almost 15 years — after 350,000 trees planted, this program has not only offset the entire output all Peruvian coffee sold, but all our coffees put together! We realized this unique reforestation program makes us a totally carbon negative company!

“The Pangoa Cooperative reforestation efforts don’t stop at carbon sequestration! Turns out, planting native hardwoods makes for superb migratory bird habitat. So, in 2016, we partnered with the coop and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to help Pangoa obtain official SMBC Bird-Friendly certification for their coffee (it would bring the coop an additional premium for the coffee as well!) …

“To take care of each other is to take care of the Earth. If you’ve been following us on social media, you may have seen our COVID initiatives to help bolster our community and look out for one another. Between thousands of tin ties for DIY masks, coffee donations and support for school meal programs, we’re continually looking for ways to help. We’re in this together.” More here.

A 2016 post I wrote about Dean’s Beans is here. And here’s one describing how Dean’s Beans is supporting health care for Mayan women. If you want to know more about the Peruvian reforestation efforts that provide families with some extra income while protecting the birds, check this post from 2017.

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The English National Opera (ENO) is rethinking how to stage productions for the current self-distancing environment. A lot depends on when driving restrictions might be lifted.

Mark Brown writes at the Guardian, “English National Opera (ENO) has announced plans for what are thought to be the world’s first drive-in opera performances.

“Planned for the first three weeks of September, the idea is to stage live performances in the grounds of Alexandra Palace, north London, with musicians and singers spaced out to conform with physical distancing guidelines. If successful, ENO hopes to roll out the ‘Drive & Live’ concept to other parts of the UK.

“Stuart Murphy, ENO’s chief executive, told the Guardian it was part of the company’s mission of ‘opera for everyone.’ He said: ‘It is a bit of an experiment and if it works it might be a way of bringing the art form to people in a totally different and authentic way.’ …

“The idea is that the audience would be in 300 cars, with the bigger vehicles at the back. People on motorbikes and pedal cycles would also be allowed. Then windows go down and the audience watches the live performance unfold on a specially constructed set.

“The audience reaction could be interesting, Murphy said. ‘Instead of clapping or shouting “bravo,” it might be that people flash their lights or honk their horn. As long as it’s authentic, we’re not going to force it.

“ ‘I think it could attract a whole new generation to opera, people who love their car, see it as an extension to themselves.’ …

“Murphy said if the concept worked, then he could see drive-in operas being staged at racecourses or historic properties. ‘We’ve also had a couple of really productive conversations with international opera houses who think we’re on to something. It is an attempt to square the circle and let people have a big collective moment while staying safe.’

“The first 12 performances will be a shortened 90-minute version of Puccini’s La Bohème and a one-hour family-friendly version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The first show will be free for National Health Service and frontline workers. …

“Murphy, who joined ENO in 2018 after a career in TV [said] all arts companies needed now to be ‘nimble and quick’ and react to circumstances, but at the moment ENO was not planning for seats being empty. …

“Some countries have allowed drive-in cinemas to remain open during the lockdown. Germany, for example, has two year-round operations, in Essen and Cologne. According to the Hollywood Reporter, both have sold out for every screening since Germany’s lockdown was declared. Makeshift drive-ins are also popping up around the country.

“In the US, the spiritual home of the drive-in, fewer than 25 of the nation’s 320 drive-ins are reportedly open for business, but that could change. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, said [in April that] he would consider allowing drive-ins to reopen. ‘Where is the public safety issue? It’s a drive-in theatre. You’re in the car with the same people,’ he said.”

Photo: Donald Cooper/Photostage
An English National Opera production of
The Magic Flute in the Good Old Days of 2019. Today ENO operas must take Covid-19 and social distancing into account.

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I take pictures with my phone, and some are better than others. Don’t expect too much.

These shots are from recent rambles in my neighborhood: I don’t like to go so far these days that I might have to use a public bathroom! Actually, there is one photo that is not mine. It was taken by my friend Kristina’s Arizona cousin. So adorable! I don’t think we have quail around here.

Let me start with a few oddities: a lily that had a tough time waking up, the first possum to visit my yard in 38 years, and a whimsical tombstone (the more traditional family of the deceased had their way with the other side).

From there we move to the baby quail, hatched in a flower pot, lovely shadows early and late, and kindness rocks. I think initially the young artists started making the rocks just to cheer people up, but now they have set up a way to sell them for the benefit of the Boston Food Bank. Outside the front door of their house, they have a poster of a giant thermometer to mark how they’re doing with their donation goals — the way one might do for Community Chest. I’m impressed.

Moving along to the community garden, I love one person’s tidy plot with a woven gate. In fact, I love all the spring scenes I’ve collected, including skunk cabbage and ferns unfurling. The spring photos could illustrate the children’s book I’ve been rereading, The Secret Garden — so full of joy about nature! Don’t laugh when I tell you why I originally thought about asking the library for the e-book: all those people dying of cholera in the beginning, followed by a happy life for the survivors.

The last picture is from the elementary school’s playground. At most times of day, there is no one on the school grounds, and unless I can keep a steady six-foot distance walking with a friend, going where there is no one at all is pretty much my favorite thing these days.

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Photo: Julia Kurnik, World Wildlife Fund
WWFUS hopes that a research-based pilot project could identify the best crops to grow in the mid-delta Mississippi region as climate change forces California to reconsider what it should grow
.

As changes in weather patterns damage agriculture in California, scientists are wondering if the Mississippi Delta could pick up the slack. The potential benefits of moving some farming to Mississippi include employment, better distribution systems, and less waste.

Radio show Living on Earth says,”Droughts and extreme weather are already taking a toll on the produce grown in the Central Valley of California. Now researchers from the World Wildlife Fund have found that the mid-Delta region of the Mississippi River, where rich soils currently mostly grow commodity crops like rice, corn, and soybeans, is ripe for growing more specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables.

“Jason Clay of WWF spoke with Host Steve Curwood about how the types of crops now grown in California could also be grown in the Mississippi mid-Delta region to enhance climate resilience and address poverty, food waste and food insecurity in America’s Heartland.

“CURWOOD: When you take a juicy bite out of a honeydew melon or chomp down on a handful of almonds, chances are that food came from the central valley of California. This region has perhaps the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, with abundant sunlight and no winter snow. But as the climate has changed, the flow of water from the Sierra Mountains has become less reliable. There have also been more heat waves and choking smoke from wildfires. So scientists and economists from the World Wildlife fund [say] the Mid-Mississippi river delta region is ripe for a switch from commodity crops such as cotton, rice and soy, to more high value specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables. …

“So how did you get into this study of farming and food?

“CLAY: I actually grew up on a farm, a very small farm in northern Missouri. And we lived on less than $1 a day. And so, as you might imagine, I couldn’t get away from farming fast enough. But everything I’ve done in my life has kind of led me back to farming. And about 20 years ago or so I started to work with WWF and convince them that, in fact, the biggest threat to the planet to biodiversity to ecosystem services is where and how we produce food. And from that point on, we begin to develop a program around agriculture, around livestock, around aquaculture, seafood. …

“CURWOOD: So Jason, what’s the importance of California to our food systems?

“CLAY: For the last hundred years or so California has become the major source of the fresh food that we eat. About a third of all vegetables about two thirds of the fruits and nuts all come from California. So, almonds and pistachios and things like that, but also cling peaches and olives and Kiwi and honeydew. California is just very important to the food system. 100 years ago it wasn’t, but it is today. …

“CURWOOD: What are some of the risks to this system? Looking ahead?

“CLAY: Well, it’s actually not even looking ahead. We’re already seeing that California is being affected by droughts, by fires, by freezes late in the spring, [also] by winters that are too warm to actually allow the fruit trees to bloom well and [we’re seeing] below normal snowfall in the mountains. And then in the summer, the snow melts too fast so that we don’t have enough water all year round to irrigate the crops. We’re losing at least the last of four crops and maybe the last two, depending on where you are. …

“CURWOOD: So I understand that you and your colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund have just released a report that identifies the potential of the Mississippi River mid-Delta region, that’s near Memphis, as I understand it, as perhaps an agricultural engine for fruits and vegetables. You’re calling it the Next California plan. …

“CLAY: Could we actually begin to shift production in a logical, organized way into this region without major disruptions in the food system? Because if we can anticipate this change, we can can make it happen much more smoothly, much more efficiently and a lot cheaper. …

“Fruit trees, for example, which require cold winters, are perfect for this area. In fact, they’re better than in California. There’s also the fact that in this region, there’s a lot of poverty, a lot of unemployment. …

“We’re probably going to get back to a much more distributed food system with the impacts of climate change. [One] of the things that struck me about farming in the Midwest is that most of the farming areas are actually food deserts. …

“They don’t have access to fresh food all year round. And this is no exception. In fact, people in the mid-Delta region are like number 49 or 50, in terms of [eating] fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.

“CURWOOD: Jason, some folks point out that we waste about 1/3 of our food. …

“CLAY: What the Next California does is reduce the transportation involved in food. It increases the quality of food on the shelf by having it more local. [We] can really take advantage of how close this region is to Chicago and St. Louis and Kansas City and New Orleans and [through] the intercoastal canal up to the East Coast. And so those things all should reduce food waste.”

More here.

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van-gogh-exhibit

Photo: Immersive van Gogh exhibit
The co-producer of the van Gogh drive-through exhibition in Toronto says, “It will be almost as if the car is floating through the paintings.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This story reminds me of friends who refuse to take no for an answer. Somehow they figure out how to make a thing happen no matter the obstacles.

Zulekha Nathoo reports for CBC News, “An upcoming digital art exhibit featuring the work of Vincent van Gogh is planning to open next month in Toronto, but you’ll need a car to get in.

“The large-scale exhibition, which was initially supposed to begin May 1 but couldn’t open as a result of the pandemic, will temporarily operate as a drive-in starting June 18 to adhere to current COVID-19 physical distancing and health guidelines.

“The exhibit’s producers said after a year of working on the original plan and purchasing the rights to more than 400 pieces from different museums, they didn’t want to give up on the project. ….

“Said co-producer Svetlana Dvoretsky, ‘People have to see the light at the end of the tunnel and also the light during this situation.’

“Art lovers will drive into the 4,000 square foot downtown industrial space and will stay inside their vehicles. … The drive-in, the first of its kind in a post-pandemic era, will allow 14 vehicles per time slot. Visitors will park, turn off their engines and watch a 35-minute show while remaining inside their cars.

” ‘The lights go down and the projection begins,’ said co-producer Corey Ross. ‘It will be almost as if the car is floating through the paintings.’

“The exhibit includes some of the Dutch painter’s most well-known masterpieces, including ‘Starry Night,’ ‘Sunflowers’ and many self-portraits. It also attempts to chronicle the famed artist’s tragic demise through the works.

” ‘It’s not that you just walk in and see the display of his paintings. That, you can see in a museum,’ said Dvoretsky.

‘What our artists have done with this exhibit is they take you inside the painting … They’re trying to show us their version of how the story is born in the mind of the genius.’

“The Gogh by Car exhibit is an interim alternative to the walk-through van Gogh exhibit at the same location, which has been postponed until at least July due to COVID-19 restrictions. But the producers say the ‘test drive’ could continue beyond its currently scheduled 11-day preview if public gatherings are still limited over the summer. …

“The installation has been designed by the creators of the successful Paris-based digital art project Atelier des Lumières, which received more than two million visitors before the global shutdown.”

More at the CBC, here. The exhibit is not free, but the cost covers both the drive-through for two and a future walk-through.

To learn more about van Gogh, check out this wonderful, quasi-animated film called Loving Vincent. Here’s the trailer.

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