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Photo: Grace Z. Li
Yuleyca Ortiz, the security supervisor at the Graduate School of Design and one of the subjects of a recent art show.

I like this idea. A graduate student in the Design School at Harvard decided to honor the security and custodial staff by making art about them. Grace Z. Li and Ruth Zheng have a report at the Harvard Crimson.

“Sometimes Doris Reina-Landaverde wanted to ask artist Annie J. Liang why she wasn’t painting a professor, or a famous person. Why her, a custodian working at the Extension School? The goal of ‘Harvard Works 2.0,’ an eight-part portrait series on exhibition in the Science Center, is to challenge the premise of this question. …

“Liang, who graduated from the Graduate School of Design this past spring, developed the idea for the exhibition in VIS2448: ‘Painting for Designers,’ a class she took with Professor Ewa Harabasz in the fall of 2016.

“For one assignment, the students were asked to draw on top of concrete, a ubiquitous texture in the Design School’s Gund Hall. Liang said she was inspired to capture the social landscape of the school — that is, ‘the workers, and the people who support the institution in all its activities.’

“Despite their work being as foundational to the University as its physical structures themselves, the hours they dedicate to supporting the institution often go unnoticed, Liang said. She said ‘Harvard Works 2.0’ integrates those who do maintenance work into the layers of the painting — reimagining Harvard’s history with Harvard’s workers at the forefront. …

“In addition to highlighting the work done by Harvard’s custodial and security staff, ‘Harvard Works 2.0’ also raises awareness about the struggles Harvard’s workers may be facing.

“Reina-Landaverde arrived in the United States from El Salvador in 2000 and is a recipient of Temporary Protected Status, a designation the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants to certain foreign nationals who are unable to return to their country of citizenship due to unsafe circumstances like armed conflict or natural disaster.

“TPS recipients can legally live and work in the U.S. and are immune from deportation. The status is temporary, but previous presidential administrations have largely left the program alone, allowing recipients to continue residing legally in the US.

“[Because of current federal] efforts to repeal TPS, workers at Harvard have taken part in activism to defend TPS, holding multiple rallies, appealing to former University President Drew G. Faust to take action to protect workers from deportation, and calling on the University for greater legal aid. …

“For [Yuleyca Ortiz, the security supervisor at the Graduate School of Design], her inclusion in ‘Harvard Works 2.0’ was above all a reminder to herself that the work she puts in at Harvard has been paying off.

“ ‘It doesn’t matter that sometimes I feel like a failure, that I’m not doing my very best,’ Ortiz said. Seeing that picture and the caption accompanying it, she said, confirms that ‘I am doing okay.’ ”

More at the Crimson, here.

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Photo: Cornell University
Small predators related to jellyfish (Hydroids) and other marine creatures made of glass may be viewed at the Corning Museum of Glass until January 8, 2017.

Visitors to the Boston area are often taken to see the famous glass flowers created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and displayed at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge. I have taken guests there myself.

But it was news to me that the Blaschkas also created sea creatures in glass. Many of those were acquired by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

According to Wikipedia, the marine specimens came before the flowers.

“Leopold Blaschke was born in Český Dub, Bohemia, to a family which originated from Josefuv Dul (Antoniwald) in the Iser or Izera Mountains, a region known for processing glass, metals and gems. The family had also spent time in the glassblowing industry of Venice.

“Leopold displayed artistic skills as a child, and was apprenticed to a goldsmith and gemcutter. He then joined the family business, which produced glass ornaments and glass eyes. He developed a technique which he termed ‘glass-spinning,’ which permitted the construction of highly precise and detailed works in glass. He also Latinised his family name to ‘Blaschka,’ and began to focus the business on the manufacture of glass eyes.

“In 1853, Leopold was suffering from ill health and was prescribed a sea voyage. He traveled to the United States and back, using the time at sea to study and draw sea animals, primarily invertebrates.’ ” Read how he started making replicas of them at Wikipedia.

The Guardian alerts us to the current exhibition of the Blaschkas’ marine work in upstate New York. “Father and son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created perfect reproductions of invertebrate marine life in glass in their studio in Germany in the 19th century. Cornell University acquired a collection of 570 items in 1885, and a selection of these can be seen at an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass. ‘Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka’ runs until 8 January, 2017.”

Amazing photos here.

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Photo: BBC
BBC
Africa’s Sophie Ikenye visits a fish farm in Kenya.

The BBC recently called my attention to a surprising new trend in Africa: Young people, who used to flock to urban office jobs and spurn farming, are beginning to see the attractive side of a return to the land.

Sophie Ikenye writes, “Six years ago Emmanuel Koranteng, 33, gave up his job as an accountant in the US and bought a one-way ticket to Ghana. He now has a successful business growing pineapples in a village one-and-a-half hours away from the capital, Accra. He says that even when he was far away from the farm, it was always in his thoughts.

“Across the continent, Dimakatso Nono, 34, also left her job in finance … and moved from Johannesburg to manage her father’s 2,000 acre farm three hours away in Free State Province. She says she wanted to make an impact. …

” ‘At the beginning, we were not sure about what the animals were doing and where they were in the fields, so for me it was important to ensure that every single day, every activity that we do is recorded.’

“Life on the farm has not been easy. … Both young farmers have found it difficult to get funding for equipment. For this reason, Mr Koranteng has decided to stay small.

” ‘If you are small and you don’t have funding, don’t try to do anything big. It’s all about being able to manage and produce quality because if you produce quality, it sells itself,’ he says.

“But there is to be made money in farming. A World Bank report from 2013 estimates that Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they were able to access to more capital, electricity and better technology.

” ‘Agriculture has a bright future in Africa,’ says Harvard University technology expert Calestous Juma. And it also means making the finished product, rather than just growing crops and selling them. ‘The focus should be … from farm to fork, not just production,’ he says.”

Check out one farming entrepreneur’s approach here.

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My friend Kristina is an artist with a long-time interest in shells. At a Harvard-based shell club that she frequents, she meets many interesting artists and scientists — including George Buckley, a Caribbean coral reef researcher who made the video below.

Buckley says, “Little did I know in 1976 that my first visit to Bonaire to study land snails … and dive with Captain Don Stewart would lead to a career interconnected with Bonaire and to some 100 more return trips!

“Bonaire became the focus of case study after case study of marine management and biodiversity in my Harvard University environmental management program. [Dozens] of research and study groups, students, magazine writers and photographers that I brought to the island all fell in love with the landscapes and the emerald sea of Bonaire.

“The early years of the Bonaire Marine Park [BMP] and STINAPA [Dutch acronym for national park] … were a great adventure and while my efforts with the Carco Project and Marecultura were not as successful as hoped, both helped to lay the groundwork for future efforts around the world as to best practices in that field.

“The BMP’s pioneering leadership in education, moorings, gloves policies, banning light sticks and spearfishing, creating the ‘Nature Fee’ and so much more led to Bonaire’s well-deserved world-wide recognition. The efforts to save Klein Bonaire were a testament to international collaboration and stand to this day as the Hallmark of what a committed group of concerned people can accomplish. It is indeed true that Bonaire is to conservation of nature as Greenwich is to time – with credit to Captain Don.”

If you are on Facebook, check out the rest of Buckley’s post.

Photo: Sand Dollar in Bonaire

 

 

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Giving prisoners something constructive to do with their empty time has long been a goal of reform activists and prisoners themselves. The upstate New York prisoners mentioned in a recent Talking Points Memo article really got into formal debating — to the point that they beat a storied Harvard team.

Colin Binkley writes, “Months after winning a national title, Harvard’s debate team has fallen to a group of New York inmates.

“The showdown took place at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. Last month, they invited the Ivy League undergraduates and this year’s national debate champions over for a friendly competition. …

” ‘Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,’ said Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative.” …

” ‘There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend,’ [the Harvard team] wrote. ‘And we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the Eastern New York Correctional Facility for the work they do and for organizing this event.’

“Against Harvard, the inmates were tasked with defending a position they opposed: They had to argue that public schools should be allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally. The inmates brought up arguments that the Harvard team hadn’t considered.  …

“While in prison, they learn without the help of the Internet, relying instead on resources provided by the college.”

More here.

Photo: Acroterion
Eastern Correctional Facility

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Having heard one too many panel discussions and lectures lately about the downsides of the “ageing population,” I was delighted that a few upsides were mentioned at today’s Harvard conference on “Ageing + Place” — a refreshing and intriguing event presenting the latest research and design ideas related to ageing.

Meanwhile, John was on my wavelength again, sending me a link to a story about someone who seems to be ageing remarkably well and making a contribution to society while she’s at it.

Katie Honan of DNAInfo.com writes at BusinessInsider about a 100-year-old woman who is still teaching children in a Brooklyn elementary school.

“Three days a week, Madeline Scotto walks across the street from her home to St. Ephrem’s elementary school, where she was part of the first graduating class.

“She climbs the stairs to her classroom, where she works to prepare students for the math bee. She pores over photocopied worksheets with complicated problems, coaching kids on how to stay calm on stage while multiplying and dividing in their head.

“She’s just like any other teacher at the school — except for one thing: She’s 100 years old.

” ‘I think it just happens, you know. You don’t even realize it,’ said Scotto, who marked her birthday on Thursday.

” ‘Last year I thought, “This can’t be, that I’m going to be 100.” I sat down and did the math actually. I thought, I could not trust my mind. This I had to put paper to pencil — I couldn’t believe it myself. It just kind of happened. I guess I’m very lucky.’ ” More here.

Is there a person of any age who isn’t astonished when they think of how old they are? I think if you are 21 or 40 or 65, you are still going to say to yourself, “How did that happen?”

Photo: DNAInfo
Madeline Scotto is 100-years-old and still teaches students in Dyker Heights.

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At Smithsonian magazine, Tom Downey explains why urban planners could learn a thing or two from a Hindu religious festival that occurs every 12 years.

“I arrived by taxi at the Kumbh [in India] at sunset, expecting throngs of cars, cows and human beings blocking all access points. Instead I glided comfortably into my camp, which sat on a hilltop. I looked out over the fleeting city before me: makeshift shelters constructed on the floodplain of a river that was sure to overflow again in a few months. …

“I’d come to witness the spectacle for myself, but also to meet a group of Harvard researchers from the university’s Graduate School of Design. Led by Rahul Mehrotra, an architect from Mumbai before he went stateside to teach, they would closely analyze this unparalleled feat of spontaneous urban organization.

“ ‘We call this a pop-up megacity,’ said Mehrotra, a bearded 54-year-old. ‘It’s a real city, but it’s built in just a few weeks to instantly accommodate tens of millions of residents and visitors. It’s fascinating in its own right, of course. But our main interest is in what can we learn from this city that we can then apply to designing and building all kinds of other pop-up megacities like it. Can what we see here teach us something that will help the next time the world has to build refugee camps or emergency settlements?’ …

“The Kumbh Mela works in a way that most other Indian cities do not in part because everyone is on their best behavior: Civil servants know that their careers will be defined by these few weeks in the national spotlight; members of the public arrive with a sense of purpose and community.” More here.

I think it goes to show that when large numbers of people are basically on the same page about the importance of something, miracles happen. Loaves and fishes get shared. People pick up their litter. Everyone feels they’ve been part of something big.

Photo: Alfred Yaghobzadeh
Cooks at the Hindu festival worked to feed millions.

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