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Photo: Shelly Davidov/Miami New Times
In Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, street art transformed Jose de Diego Middle School.

It’s interesting to see how street art can be a route to gallery representation for painters, especially if they apply their tagging to public projects.

Ahmed Fakhr writes at Rolling Stone about how painting the walls in a Florida neighborhood helped some artists gain wider recognition.

“Miami is becoming a destination for global collectors looking for a multimillion-dollar Jeff Koons sculpture or one-off by Gerhard Richter. While some opt for the hallowed white-walled galleries to sip white wine, other local artists continue to gain notoriety when by taking to the streets to paint huge murals on bare walls with cans of spray paint. This graffiti explosion was the creation of the street art scene in Wynwood.

“In 2007, Wynwood was a rundown textile and manufacturing area. Then a cohort of street artists decided to bring attention to their neighborhood, but as a way to establish their own art.

“Slowly the area transformed into a haven for creative people looking for a way to express themselves. Soon enough, a developer purchased the properties and capitalized on the growing art culture in the gentrifying area now known as the Wynwood Arts District. …

“Native Robert de los Rios, founder of the RAW project, has been entrenched in street art scene in Miami for years, so he used this opportunity as a way bring art to underfunded schools in the area. ‘Art budgets for schools in the Wynwood area were slashed to zero,’ Rios says.

“So he decided to approach the area school district and street artists from around the world to paint murals on the indoor and outdoor walls of the school. By doing so, Rios hoped this would jumpstart the issue of funding art in schools again and to inspire kids’ creativity. ‘They felt like they were coming to a prison before,’ he says. ‘But now they come to school excited and happy.’ …

“While Rios prides himself in being able to bring an international graffiti scene together to transform the aesthetic of the school, he also collaborated with multiple Miami artists – Ahol Sniffs Glue, Typoe, Santiago Rubino and FL.Mingo – to bring challenging concepts to the school’s campus.

“Typoe, one third of an art collective known as Primary Flight, along with Cristina Gonzalez and Books Bischof, started in Wynwood when Art Basel launched in 2007. Having no luck at the fair, the trio decided street art was more lucrative. … Now they have a gallery space in the Design District.”

Read about more of the artists at Rolling Stone, here, including the one who prefers to stick to illegal tagging of trains and remain anonymous.

I’d be very curious to know how all this has affected the students at the middle school. Perhaps some are aiming to become artists now or are just feeling more special.

After my two half-Swedish grandchildren were off breast milk — or even before — they started on bottles of a ground-up oat concoction that I’m told all Swedish children drink rather than cow’s milk. Välling. We can’t get along without it.

So the following story from the Guardian is not as curious to me as it might be to others.

Tom Levitt reports, “Adam Arnesson, 27, is not your usual milk producer. For starters, he doesn’t have any dairy cattle. Our first photo opportunity is in the middle of one of his fields of oats.

“Until last year all these oats went into animal feed, either sold or fed to the sheep, pigs and cows he rears on his organic farm in Örebro county, central Sweden.

“With the support of Swedish drinks company Oatly, they are now being used to produce an oat milk drink …

“ ‘The natural thing for us would be to increase our livestock numbers, but I don’t want a factory,’ he says. ‘The number of animals has to be emotionally right so I know each of them.’ …

“The rearing of livestock and meat consumption accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Alongside carbon emissions from deforestation (for pasture or crops to feed animals), the livestock sector is also the single biggest human-related source of methane (from cattle) and nitrous oxide emissions (from fertiliser and manure), two particularly potent greenhouse gases. …

“ ‘I had a lot of arguments on social media with other farmers, because I thought what Oatly was doing could bring better opportunities to our sector,’ says Arnesson, who decided to contact the company in 2015 to see if they could help him switch away from livestock. …

“After the first year of producing oats, analysis by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced. …

“ ‘I don’t want to take pride from having a tractor or producing 10 tonnes of wheat or a sow with 10 piglets, but in feeding and preserving the planet – that is one of the big things I want as a farmer to be involved in changing,’ says Arnesson.

“Oatly said it plans to work with three more farmers to demonstrate the environmental benefits of switching from livestock to more crop production. But Arnesson says livestock farmers need government support in order to do so in large numbers.”

More at the Guardian , here.

Photo: Tom Levitt for the Guardian 
Adam Arnesson in a field of oats at his organic farm in Örebro country, Sweden.

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On the principle that “one and one and 50 make a million,” a better world relies on everybody pitching in. Ordinary people can help scientists and other leaders of worthy initiatives.

Lisa Mullins and Lynn Jolicoeur report at WBUR on one example.

“It’s a cloudy, cool July morning, and we’ve come to the docks at Fairhaven Shipyard, near New Bedford, to meet Chris Parks. She’s a tall, elegant, retired Boston banker in jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Parks is a volunteer with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Residents formed the group 30 years ago to help the struggling bay.

“She’s got a plastic bottle attached to a long metal pole. She submerges it and fills it with sea water. Then she pulls out her tool box full of vials and chemicals. She mixes and measures.

“Parks determines the water is pretty cool on this day — 67 degrees. … In addition to temperature and clarity, Parks tests the water for how much salt and oxygen are in it. She’s been coming to this dock, fastidiously, one or two mornings a week for 17 years.

” ‘I’m doing it because it’s one of the few things that I can do that is a tangible task towards helping the environment,’ Parks says. ‘It’s a little bit of science that helps tell us what’s going on in Buzzards Bay.’

“What’s going on is that the water is warming — and that may be contributing to long-lasting pollution problems in the bay.”

Buzzards Bay Coalition science director Rachel Jakuba says, ” ‘If you have too much algae in the water, that’s when you get cloudy, murky water, loss of eel grass, low oxygen levels that make it hard for fish and shellfish to survive … Bay scallops are very rare now because part of their life cycle depends on eel grass blades.’

“The Buzzards Bay Coalition is attacking that pollution aggressively. It’s working with homeowners to upgrade their septic systems with technology that reduces nitrogen. …

“Jakuba says as researchers figure out how global warming fits into the bay pollution picture, citizen scientists will be key.

“Mark Sweitzer, 68, is a citizen scientist and lobsterman based at Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island. …

“Six times a month while he’s catching lobster, Sweitzer lowers a device to the bottom of the ocean — about 200 feet. It tracks the temperature and other characteristics of the water at every depth, and it syncs the data to an iPad on board. …

” ‘I’m just happy to do it, because I feel like I’m providing some information — even though it might not have immediate effect on my boat, but in long-term trends in the fishery and how it might influence policy or regulations,’ Sweitzer says. …’

” The settlers — the tiny little ones that are four days old that have reached the bottom — there is a temperature at which they will not survive … and there are temperatures at which we have an influx of fish. Black sea bass used to be primarily a mid-Atlantic fish. And now … the black sea bass are down there gobbling up these little lobsters that don’t have much of a chance to make it in the first place.’ ”

Read how other fishermen are noticing ocean changes before scientists do and reporting back, here.

We have a friend who sets lobster pots off New Shoreham, Rhode Island. His catch has gone down steadily over the past few years, so I know there is a problem.

Photo: Mark Degon/WBUR
Lobsterman Mark Sweitzer works out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Photo: Thierry Bal
Artist Richard Woods’s cartoon-like fake bungalows, installed for Folkestone Triennial, are a commentary on the surge in second homes along the coast.

An English artist who favors cartoon-like architectural constructions has created six bungalows for a Folkestone Triennial installation called Holiday Home.

Kathryn Bromwich interviewed him for the Guardian. “Born in Chester in 1966, Richard Woods graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1990. … [For the triennial] Woods has created six colourful bungalows, situated in unexpected locations around the town.”

According to the interview, the artist is trying to reflect general concerns about who gets housing. People who can afford a second home? Immigrants from Calais across the Channel?

” ‘I was in Folkestone 18 months ago and got given this strange leaflet saying, “Have you thought about turning your property into cash?” – basically, “give up your house so someone can buy it as a second home”. The idea grew out of that: to make six identical bungalows and install some in very desirable locations, some not, but keeping it very open-ended. There’s been equal [numbers of] people coming up to me and discussing the second home issue, and immigration. …

” ‘There’s one house in the harbour, floating around – somebody heard through gossip in the town that it was going to be floated to Calais and back again. Some people are genuinely interested in whether “boat people” will move into the houses. But then lots of people in the town completely get the project.’ ”

The interviewer asks, “What can Folkestone tell us about wider trends across the country?

” ‘It’s a compressed version of the UK: all those issues that are prevalent everywhere are kind of heightened. On a clear day we can see Calais … Folkestone has very broad, different economic groups and because of its proximity to London people are moving here wanting a second home. People have asked if the homes are going to be available for local residents or just people from London.’ ”

The exhibit runs until November 5. More at the Guardian, here.

I’m sitting in my second home as I write this. There is no question that second homes in resort areas make housing extremely difficult for year-round residents. That’s one reason I support efforts to build affordable housing with subsidies, but I’m afraid it’s just a drop in the bucket.

The Sun and Moon


Art: Sun and Moon
A beautiful book reviewed at Brainpickings and featuring the work of ten of India’s indigenous artists.

Maria Popova, my go-to source for children’s book suggestions, tweeted about the book Sun and Moon in August, around the time of the eclipse.

“In Sun and Moon,” she writes, “ten Indian folk and tribal artists bring to life the solar and lunar myths of their indigenous traditions in stunningly illustrated stories reflecting on the universal themes of life, love, time, harmony, and our eternal search for a completeness of being.

“This uncommon hand-bound treasure of a book, silkscreened on handmade paper with traditional Indian dyes, comes from South Indian independent publisher Tara Books, who for the past decades have been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on books handcrafted by local artisans in a fair-trade workshop in Chennai …

“Among the indigenous traditions represented in the book are Gondi tribal art by Bhajju Shyam (of London Jungle Book fame), Durga Bai (featured in The Night Life of Trees), and Ramsingh Urveti (of I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail); Madhubani folk art by Rhambros Jha (of Waterlife); and Meena tribal art by Sunita (of Gobble You Up).”

Popova links to WorldCat, a library system, for the book’s publishing details and this description: “Part of everyday life, yet rich in symbolic meaning, renderings of the sun and the moon are present in all folk and tribal art traditions of India. Agrarian societies have always kept track of time by referring to markers in the seasonal variations of the sun, moon and planets. They have also woven wonderful stories and myths around them. Here, for the first time, is a collection of unusual stories and exquisite art from some of the finest living artists, on this most universal of themes.”

Be sure to read the Brainpickings post, here, for more art, more of Popova’s insights, and her ever thoughtful suggestions for related reading.

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I love stories about people who get a good idea and just go do it. In this one by Deborah Allard at Fall River’s Herald News, a man who enjoys gardening is sharing beauty in his own way.

“Del Thurston examined the earth oblivious to the traffic rolling up and down busy Bedford Street.

“The drivers probably didn’t notice the gardener either, but it would be hard to miss the wall of yellow blooms that sprouted up this summer like a centerpiece in the middle of this cement-heavy city neighborhood.

“ ‘I wanted something to brighten up the corner,’ Thurston said.

“And, he found it in the form of sunflowers. The lemon queen variety flowers stretch across the front of the empty property on Bedford Street, and along the corner of Oak Grove Avenue. …

“A gardener who came to the literal field later in life, he approached the property owner in the spring and asked if he could plant sunflowers. With the go-ahead, Thurston nurtured the flowers from seedlings and has watched them stretch toward the sun all season long. …

“He said he used to drive by the vacant lot and noticed the raised flower beds on the property, formerly used by the YMCA.

“ ‘I would see these beds,’ Thurston said. ‘It had good soil. I’ve always wanted to try this with sunflowers. …

“ ‘I’ve met some absolutely phenomenal people in the neighborhood,’ he said

“The fat and happy bees seemed OK with his work, too. They buzzed around the blooms, paying no attention to the humans keeping watch on them, doing what bees do. …

“Gardening has become a favorite hobby for Thurston, who has been involved with the Bristol Community College community garden. … He said he started gardening when he was in his 50s, but Thurston’s knowledge of plants and seedlings seems more mature than a mere decade or so.

“He pointed to the center of the property where herbs and perennials, including sage, sprouted up on a mound of dirt.

“ ‘The rabbits jumped on my pineapple sage,’ he said, extending a leaf that emitted a nice scent of the fruit that bears its name. …

“ ‘This has been very empowering for me,’ Thurston said. ‘I like the positive feedback from the neighborhood.’ ”

More here. Hat tip: @FallRiverRising posted this on twitter.


Photo: The Economist
A statue of Juha, the wise old fool of Arab folklore.

It’s interesting to me that all cultures seem to have something like a wonton as part of their cuisine. Jewish cooks make kreplach, Italians make ravioli, Polish cooks make pierogis, and so on. We have more in common than we often realize.

The same goes for folktales. For example, most cultures have a wise fool, like the old court jesters or Don Quixote. I just learned about an Arab example.

The Economist comments, “Western audiences have grown used to the marauding heroes of Arabic folklore. Characters like Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba instantly conjure images of hidden treasure and desperate sword fights. But in the Middle East itself, many people prefer a more down-to-earth figure: Juha, a wise old fool, and his long-suffering donkey. …

“Juha first appeared in an Arabic book of the ninth century, though this was likely adapted from an older oral tradition. From there, Juha quickly splintered to the far ends of the Mediterranean world. He followed the Arabs to Sicily, where he became known as Giufà. In Turkey, his legend merged with a Sufi mystic called Nasruddin, while the Ottomans exported him to the Balkans. Some even claim that Juha inspired Cervantes’s ‘Don Quixote.’ …

“In some tales, Juha is accompanied by his faithful donkey and much amusement springs from it getting lost. One story begins with Juha looking for the animal around town; everywhere he goes, he thanks God. People are confused. ‘Why are you praising God?’ they ask. ‘Surely this is nothing to be thankful for?’ Juha smiles. ‘If I were riding the donkey right now, I’d be lost too!’

“Not all Juha’s tales are so innocent. Like court jesters in medieval Europe, his everyman style has proved an ideal vehicle for social criticism. In one fable, Juha is approached by a proud king. ‘All the great rulers of the past had honorific titles with the name of God in them,’ he proclaims. ‘There was God-gifted, and God-accepted. Can you think of a name for me?’ Juha pauses. “God-forbid,’ comes his retort. …

“Ali Ahmed Bakathir, an Egyptian nationalist, reimagined the fable of ‘Juha’s nail’ in 1951 to mock Britain’s obsession with the Suez Canal (just as Juha keeps ownership of a single nail at his old house so he always has an excuse to visit, Bakathir suggested that the British used Suez to justify their occupation of Egypt generally). …

“Amid the confusion of the modern Middle East, Juha is one way people find common ground. Last year, storytellers from around the Gulf met in the United Arab Emirates to celebrate Juha. The internet provides another space for communal appreciation. A popular Reddit page features dozens of volunteers reading a classic Juha story in their native Arabic dialect.”

More at the Economist, including sightings of Juha in unlikely parts of the world, here.