In addition to making the headlines, we’re making the cut.
Last week, members of the Pomegranate Center team received another warm welcome from Tuscaloosans on their third visit to Alabama. The mile and a half wide tornado that created a path of destruction through the heart of the city on April 27th, 2011, was just one of 208 tornados that touched down in the United States that day. And in the midst of rebuilding their individual lives (some have lost their homes, belongings, vehicles, and employment), they are also focused on rebuilding as a whole. Volunteers for the Alberta City Gathering Place are from the entire city of Tuscaloosa, not just the Alberta neighborhood. We are inspired by their generosity and camaraderie. When we return in June, we will work with them to build an amphitheater and picnic shelters constructed primarily of salvaged materials from the tornado. To learn more about this project, sponsored by Tully’s Coffee, visit the Alberta City Gathering Place facebook page.
July 31, 2012
Napkin Notes on Collaboration
The foundation of Pomegranate Center’s work is collaboration. Here are napkin notes on the subject, collected from writings to myself over the past twenty-five years.
I trust that very soon we will be able to move to the elementary school.
November 28th, 2011
Pomegranate Center’s Landmark Year
2011 was a landmark year for Pomegranate Center. We had the opportunity to test our collaborative philosophy in five parallel projects and demonstrated that, when conditions are right, ordinary communities are capable of extraordinary things; that meaningful community projects can be done quickly and with moderate funds; and that people, given a chance, are eager to jump with both feet into improving their neighborhoods.
In 2011 we completed five gathering places in five different communities in the greater Seattle area. One was a pro bono project in Bellevue, WA. Four were made possible with a generous grant from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters through Tully’s Coffee. Here was the timeline:
· In March we put out a Gathering Places Request For Proposals and received seventeen responses.
· In May we trained the leaders of the four selected projects in our gathering places model.
· In June we held planning and design sessions in each community.
· Between August 5 and September 17, we organized intensive, participatory four-day building workshops culminating in opening celebrations with proclamations, musical celebrations and, of course, Tully’s coffee!
Here are the stats: these five projects engaged 781 volunteers who gave 8000 hours of time to conceptualize, design and build. Pomegranate Center’s four-person staff received assistance from two summer interns and a dozen Public Space Rangers (professionals in design and building who offered their services pro bono – at a value of $139K).
· used 20 gallons of paint and 18 gallons of wood preservative
· mixed 473 bags of concrete by hand
· placed 67 tons of rock
· spread 81 cubic yards of soil
· painted 45,000 dots on banners
· carved 350 sq. feet of cedar
· installed 500 feet of paths
· polished, bent and twisted 500 feet of stainless steel flat bars
· constructed 44 benches (20 on bicycle wheels) and
· planted 500 plants.
These are remarkable achievements, especially in our current charged civic situation where acrimonious blaming and complaining are the norm. Our projects demonstrated that given the opportunity and under experienced leadership, people are capable of remarkable accomplishments. It is good to remember that, typically, similar projects take years of planning and unrealistic budgets. Our intensive, streamlined process unlocks a surprising amount of positive energy because the process moves quickly and people can actually see their ideas taking shape on achievable budgets that are complimented by volunteer work and in-kind donations of materials and equipment. In addition, because our projects offer an easy opportunity to deposit care and artistry, they become a stark contrast to the anger and violence that dominates the news and our public awareness. Our model works because there are so many ways for different people to be involved. But mainly it works because every neighborhood has people who have a keen awareness of how things ought to be and they jump at the chance to realize such potential.
Today, when most municipalities have no resources for such projects, our model provides a powerful alternative.
Pomegranate Center’s goal now is to transfer this model in many communities throughout the country. A complimentary goal is to train new leaders capable of creating their own projects in the future. We know that to achieve this goal we will need more partners in this exciting adventure. With the help of a new Tully’s grant, we will take the show on the road with a project in Tuscaloosa, AL, creating a gathering place in that tornado-ripped city.
These are challenging times for our country and we agree with those who demand changes for a more just and sustainable future. Destructive policies and practices must stop. Pomegranate Center’s approach, however, has always been to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes,’ to find a way to realize a mutually preferred future within the limited possibilities of each project. Our five 2011 projects accomplished this.
I would love to hear from those who wish to get involved with our next steps.
February 1st, 2010
Originally posted on The Center for the Study of Art and Community’s blog, Wild Caught Stories
Imagination is powerful. It guides our thoughts which in turn guide our actions. Imagination is the soil in which our ideas grow. Imagination is what allows our actions to change.
Images of the future crafted by people of the past are now our reality, just as current images of the future will shape tomorrowâ€™s reality. If we believe that to be true, we have an obligation to articulate and examine our images of the future.
Dutch futurist Fred Polak studied the importance of the image of the future. His conclusion:
The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as the societyâ€™s image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.
My interpretation of Polak’s words: Truly creative thinking about the future requires tension–the tension of holding both the real and the possible in our awareness at the same time.
I believe our images of the future must be more than incremental improvements on the present; they must be daring and far-reaching. Polak called such a view the “other” future — heretical in its newness, with the ability to broaden our thinking so that our lives are not limited by what is apparent and evident. If we can be so daring, we can willingly and eagerly participate in cultural change-making, rather than kick and scream when faced with the unfamiliar.
With disciplined imagination, an informed vision of what we, the people, want to be and do, change can be a joyful process. The American cultural philosopher William Irwin Thompson said that, like fly-fishers, “we cast images in front of ourselves and then slowly reel ourselves into them, turning them into reality.” To accomplish this, we need to examine and inform our imaginations, and share what we imagine with others.
Our time is ripe for a thorough re-imagination of what the world will be when it grows up. This is demanding and audacious work. It takes courage to unpack one’s inner constructs and peer into assumptions and impulses that make us who we are. Seeing without distortion takes courage. Every day, media and pop culture pound us with messages of who we should be and what we should do. If we don’t contest these messages, we accept them — and consign ourselves to a lifeless repetition of the familiar.
What is my image of the future? Here is how I described it in my recent book Multiple Victories:
Future cities will be compacted into clearly defined neighborhoods that will be smaller and more densely populated than our sprawling suburbs and ex-urbs today. These new cities and towns will combine the best of traditional urban design with modern mass transit and communication technologies . . . Offices, stores and restaurants, housing, parks and open spaces will all be within walking distance for the people who live there. Tentacles of restored land with healthy watersheds, river banks, ravines and hills will reach into the heart of the city, while clear boundaries will honor spaces in which farms and wild lands flourish and nurture the new metropolis.
As our resurgent cityscapes mature, architecture, cuisine and the arts will re-develop regional styles and celebrate local choices, resources and sensibilities.
In this future, the differences between our cities become apparent and delightful. The joy of walking and the convenience of alternative transportation will diminish the need for the single-passenger automobile, reduce its infrastructure and restore a human scale to the cityscape.
An increasingly “walkable” environment will allow us to cluster our important civic institutions, such as, the city hall, library, and museums, shopping and work. As a result, more and more people will find themselves drawn to the middle of our new town where they will also find a beautiful, intentional space where they feel welcome to put up their feet, play games or discuss the matters of the day. This space, the community’s gathering place, is the heart for communal identity, welcome, and social rejuvenation. Every neighborhood will build such a space where people create together something that captures their collective talents, their aspirations and their appreciation of the many community connections.
This image flows from my own imagination, shaped by an increasingly urgent imperative: Stop waste! We must stop wasting our time, creativity, learning opportunities. We must stop wasting our health, community, local democracy, our useful differences, character and identity. We must stop wasting the innocence of the young and wisdom of the elders. We must end planned obsolescence and stop wasting our natural gifts of air, water, soil and the creatures that live around us. If we can muster the strength to do this, we can bring about a speedy transformation of our urban, social and natural landscapes. With courage and commitment, we can develop solutions that address these issues coherently and solve multiple problems at once. If we can come together to create such solutions, we can reverse the current trend of multiplying problems and bring about, ultimately, a world that will not need constant remediation.
I have my own library of mental images that inform my imagination and shape this vision. What do you see? What sorts of patterns or themes? What images of the future spring from your own imagination?
Chosen from a national pool of more than 500 entrants, the Taste of Community winner is (drumroll please!)…Kimberly C. from Alabama! Kimberly is an art teacher who has lived in the Tuscaloosa area for five years. She cares deeply about her community and is passionate about rebuilding a sense of place in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa County earlier this year. For her contest entry, Kimberly asked for the chance to improve her community by giving people a safe, accessible, clean place to gather. Kimberly’s vision is to develop a gathering place that will serve as a focus for the rebuilding effort that is just beginning and will ultimately knit the community back together, both physically and emotionally. In the coming months, Pomegranate Center and Tully’s Coffee will work with Kimberly, the Tuscaloosa County community and local officials to determine where a community gathering space is most needed and what type of space will have the greatest impact. The project build will be completed in 2012 and will seek to engage the community at large throughout the process from design stage to completion. See more about her submission here: http://on.fb.me/ofZRYb
Pomegranate Center’s founder and Executive Director Milenko Matanovic describes himself as a recovering artist. This interview in ARTMargins Online gives insight into that past, the same past that includes hitchhiking, falling in love and starting this non-profit.
More than 75 citizens of Sumner transformed an ordinary alley into a space that expresses the unique character of their downtown. This gathering place is an intimate and attractive area that is a signature artistic element for tourism, photo ops and more.
Through the use of all different sorts of materials – rebar, concrete tiles, clay, dogwood twigs, painted banners, cedar and rock – the garden supports various learning styles through sensory exploration, intimate reading spaces, and a gathering space for storytelling, programs and the enjoyment of nature.
Starting by defining the existing space, edges of the gathering place include the installation of composting walls and organized patterns of plants of different colors and textures. Wooden poles were adorned with birdhouses, lights, colors and objects donated to the project by the community. Benches made with wood and bicycle wheels are the movable seating for a brand new amphitheater.
This park now has a picnic shelter made of cedar with a granite tile and sage green quartzite floor, a crushed gravel walking path, a stone wall and story-telling circle made of limestone, slate and donated rocks, benches and tables made of cedar and beautiful hand painted banners.
As Pomegranate Center’s 2011 Dig Fund Project, an acre and a half of underused green space was converted into a public amenity. The plot is owned by Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and the congregation made a commitment to work with Factoria neighbors and businesses to turn the precious corner into a community gathering space with an amphitheater, picnic shelter, gateway and orchard labyrinth.
It’s time to celebrate! Join us to mark the completion of all four gathering places built this summer in partnership with Tully’s Coffee.
We’ll make good use of each gathering place with food, coffee and music!
Mercer Island Library Early Learning Garden
Saturday, September 17, 10:30am
4400 88th Avenue Southeast, Mercer Island, WA
NE Seattle Hunter Farm Gathering Place
Saturday, September 17, 3:30pm
7744 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA
Kirkland 132nd Square Park Gathering Place
Sunday, September 18, 4pm
Corner of NE 132nd Street and 132nd Avenue NE, Kirkland, WA
Sumner Alley Gathering Place
Monday, September 19, 10:30am
1101 Main Street, Sumner, WA
Questions? Contact Katya!
This year’s order options include:
Customize your order with text, specific images and even your favorite colors!
Don’t need anything for your home this year? Help make the Dig Fund gateways come to life by sponsoring part or all of a gateway! Your gift will go directly to the creation of beautiful carved and stained elements that will mark key points in the project.
Questions? Contact Katya.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is proud to support this event through their Care in Regions program by providing additional funding! Every order and sponsorship gift will be increased through their matching gift.
Our dear friend Shirley Kern passed away in May. We met Shirley in 2008 in her home neighborhood of Edith Carrie in Walla Walla, WA. She was a courageous community builder who inspired us in so many ways and she will be dearly missed.
Shirley was featured in this video we made about two projects we worked on in Walla Walla. Her interviews took place just one month before she passed.
Our 2010 Dig Fund project – the Washington Park Gathering Place in Walla Walla, Washington – has won a Smart Communities award from Gov. Chris Gregoire. We’ve been recognized in the Smart Partnership category for effective partnerships and significant public participation.
Thanks to our partners: Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department, Commitment to Community and Sherwood Trust.
Here’s what the press release says: