Green Carnival

I met with a class of students a week or more ago at the School of the Art Institute. This particular class is working on sustainability in arts education and community development. They are working with an elementary school in East Garfield Park (a rapidly gentrifying area on the west side of chicago) on a variety of projects. the one they wanted to involve me in is installing a green roof at an elementary school...I hope to get some horticulture students involved in the project as I try to make the case for building a landscape architecture arm of the programs i work with. anyway...the conversation stretched into doing other environmentally based and quasi architectural interventions...like a solar energy collecting pavillion housing a marketplace etc. the students interested in this were discouraged by some potential partners about doing permanent structures on 'vacant' land. apart from encouraging them to be creative with the idea of what a structure is and what permanence is...i mentioned to them an idea that at one time considered fleshing out in a thesis...which was the idea of the carnival. what better precedent is there for a temporary, structurally rigorous, socially magnetic spectacle in communities??? and in chicago...its usually low-income communities of color on a vacant lot, or in a large park. i walked way dreaming about this "green carnival"...what about taking those same concepts and making them meaningful in an environmental or social awareness way. i left it at that...as i'd totally love to explore that idea further in my own creative practice! But it was an exciting and refreshing experience. i got to talking to them and was reminded of how thrilling it can be in academia. having that space to dream is often not afforded in the "real world"...it reminded me of how important to me it is to hold on to dreaming and imagining something new but also not stopping at the idea or the theory...but taking that next step of putting it into practice....which is truly the hard part. balancing your "creative ideas" with the reality and buy in of stakeholders and the relevance to real world concerns...apart from just scope+scale+budget. i've long been wrestling for next steps on "building out" my thesis typology...where, with whom...for what express purpose etc. its very important to me to not just leave it at the paper stage...but to also go about it a not so "academic" way.

The student's projects in particular did not send me into my following thought process, but in wrestling with the issues and circumstances of these types of projects...i also later began to ponder why it is that for some reason "community" for many people has become synonymous with "poor or underserved neighborhood". similarly as, "inner-city" or"urban youth" is a euphemism for poor youth of color...when i always thought urban...was just a literally a descriptor for "city". i would love it if we could start recognizing that "community based" work isn't just important for impoverished or gentrifying neighborhoods...or for people who supposedly "who don't know better"...this to me puts a different spin on the issue of empowerment through design...


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