10 July 2006


man. i tell you. i really should get better about posting in here. i do so much, and i never seem to talk about it. maybe first things first, i should talk about the new orleans trip with glorianna. photos can be found on my flickr account. and let me try this new lightbox thing, that will hopefully work.


SNAP -- student neighborhood area planning.

June 26-30, 2006. Ashe' Cultural Arts Center - New Orleans, LA
Students from the New Orleans area met together at the Ashe' CAC for a week long workshop focused (roughly) on the themes of urban planning, adaptive reuse, rebuilding, and reinvisioning a neighborhood. The area focused on was a 4-5 block stretch of Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. (formerly Dryades St.), which also included the Ashe' CAC. The number of kids varied from day to day, but there were two who were there for the entire time. Unfortunately, due to a cancelled flight, I missed the first day, but managed to get to New Orleans the next day (with quite a few delays).

Tuesday was a bit rough. There were a lot of younger kids who were very needing of attention. Glorianna was great with them, though. I think I was still in a bit of shock. Steven Bingler gave a nice talk/discussion about the feeling of the place, getting kids to come up with words for how the street feels now and how they want it to feel in the future. He then worked on getting them to come up with concrete ideas about how to achieve the feelings they wanted. Ex: NOW - run down, historic, lonely, familiar, forgotten. FUTURE - classy, lively, outrageous, scenic, revitalized, safe, a New Orleans vibe. HOW? - gumbo shops, soul food restaurants, stores, flowers, plants, banks, available housing.

I managed to catch up a bit on what was going on, and did my best to get the younger kids going on something. For this, I broke out the art supplies I had brought down from Boston. After walking around and taking pictures on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. and while focusing on the words that Steven had them come up with, the younger kids sketched up some ideas for what could go in some of the empty lots and buildings, as well as ideas for what could make the neighborhood better. Some of the students' work: 1, 2, 3. (more on flickr.) It was a bit messy, but fun. There was this wonderful kid, Syraje, who started designing artistic street lights and matching benches for the street. Unfortunately, he was only there for one day.Lisa Mosier taught the older kids how to do models in Google SketchUp, while I was working with the younger kids.

The next day, only three of the younger kids showed up (in addition to the older kids). Dorian Hastings showed up and gave a wonderful presentation on the history of the street. Glorianna, again, was great with the kids and helped the younger ones think about being entrepeneurs. The three designed their store fronts and what they wanted their stores to have in them. One of them wanted a jewelry store, one of them a clothing store, and one of them a dance/dance supply/dance clothing store. After designing the store fronts, they started designing the things to go in the store. The older kids worked on their 3D models this day. I worked with this kid Garrick a lot on this day. He had some great ideas about how this one block could be, with an internet cafe, some stores, a blockbuster, a drug store, a health center, and a cafe/restaurant with outdoor patio seating.

Thursday. Glorianna left. None of the younger kids showed up. It was pretty much just Micah and Dimitri, the two consistent kids. They worked on their models all day. Dimitri was very focused on doing detail work on the buildings, whereas Micah was more focused on trying to lay out a block. I laid out Garrick's street in SketchUp, since he wasn't there. Work work work on the presentation. Lisa picked out some of the words from Steven's discussion to go in the presentation. I tried to get the kids' input on how the presentation should be structured. While they were busy working on their models, I made the presentation. Well... started it. I didn't finish it until late that night.

Friday. Presentation. Micah and Dimitri were the only ones there in the morning. They ran through the presentation a few times, for practice. Garrick showed up after a bit, and Micah and Dimitri filled him in on the presentation. About when the presentation was starting, two of the younger kids showed up, along with their parents. The presentation went well. I was impressed by Micah's presentation skills. They're better than mine, I think. Dimitri was a bit distractable, and a little soft spoken, and not quite as prepared as Micah, but still did well. Garrick told about his ideas for the two blocks he worked on. And afterwards, the younger kids spoke about what they had worked on.

The parents and other people who showed up seemed interested in what was going on. They asked great questions about the project and about why are we doing this and what all was going on. The kids answered their questions well. And I also answered a few of them, along with Carol Bebelle (of the Ashe' CAC).

All in all, I think this workshop went well. The kids thought through some hard things and came out with a good presentation. I wish we had had more time to work on things, and I hope that this continues and that something comes out of it. I think it was a good experience for the kids, if anything, and I know it was a great experience for me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Laura.
    I like the way in which your narrative builds with each day's activities. The one suggestion I would make is to introduce some commentary on how the Micah, Deimitri, Garrick (and Amelia although she was not there at the end) developed their individual visions and how the vision drove them to focus on learning. .. what did each of these older kids focus on, how did they expand their thinking... were they able to balance the challenge of thinking about the future with learning a new tool that allowed them to detail land use.

    Some context that were not around to experience.

    The first meeting on Monday June 26 was attended by Dimitri, Micah and my neice, Amelia. Dimitri and Micah both participated in a Saturday Morning workshop in April. Micah was among the students from that workshop who presented at Common Cents in New York.

    The grant from Common Cents allowed Ashe to buy 4 laptops to be used in the workshop.

    The focus monday was on neighborhood change: why it happens, how we can envision a direction for that change. We spend some time discussing the past "feeling" of the Boulevard and the concept of adaptive reuse. Carole Bebelle, director of Ashe Cultural Arts Center and Raymond Breux who grew up in Central City and now coordinates economic development for this neighborhood shared their memories of the changes in the feeling of the Boulevard that they had experienced the times of Civil Rights demonstrations in the 1960's.

    Despite the extreme heat and humidity, we spent sometime exploring and photographing 2 blocks of the Boulevard we had not considered in April, including the block with the former Myrtle Banks school which had been suggested to become the site of a civil rights museum. Amelia put some of these photos into photoshop and tried to stitch together the impression of the street.

    Over the course of the day, Carol contacted a few more children who were on waiting lists for Ashe workshops. The arrival of these children on Tuesday and the fact that Laura only arrived Monday night made Tuesday a rather crazy day.

    On Tuesday, I introduced Steven by showing some film clips of him that are part of a documentary about urban change in New Orleans that I produced and filmed from 1982-1986. At the time I wondered: what makes a city change? The answer at the time was people. To that I now add, natural disasters.

    Laura was fantastic. She jumped right into the chaos of Day 2!