“This is the best day ever!” I overheard one of the kids saying as they ran around the open field of Radke Orchard Apple Farm. It really was a good day, we departed from the block and rode about an hour outside of Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana there we were greeted by a delightful gentleman on a tractor “Are yall ready for a ride?” he asked. Watching not only the children but the adults maneuver through the apple trees finding the best apples (and taking a taste too) was what made the day a little sweeter.


IMG_5342(A couple of the younger neighbors enjoying their apples)

      Although I had never been apple picking it was what I imagined it to be and a little more, rows and rows of apples even ones I’d never heard of before. We spent about 45 minutes gathering apples reminding the kids don’t get too many we have to pay for them.

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 12.07.34 PM(Myself, super excited on the tractor ride)  

     We enjoyed lunch in an open field, allowing the adults to reflect and talk while the kids were looking for wild animals. It was a wonderful day trip with our neighbors here in Chicago if you get a chance take a trip out to Radke Orchard for apples, Oh! They do have much more in the cute store!

AuthorKen Stewart

Carver Bank staff are especially grateful for the current artists-in-residence for their dedication to the activation of the space and commitment to influencing other local artists to connect on a deeper level with the North Omaha community. This week’s highlight gives thanks to Devel Crisp, spoken word artist and activist. Devel_performs

What do you enjoy the most about your residency experience?

I really enjoy the freedom the residency gives me to roam around to research and gain material for my word-works.  I also enjoy meeting and learning from other artists locally and from around the globe.

What programs or events have you participated in either at Carver or in the community?

There was an Urban Design Lab at Carver Bank for high-school students.  I was excited to be called on to help conduct a workshop there this past summer!

What is something you'd like everyone to know about Carver Bank?

This gorgeous, quaint space is perfectly situated near 24th Street, one of the most culturally and historically important streets in Omaha, Nebraska.  It hearkens progressiveness from creative-types.

Devel teaches_Carver Bank

Thank you Devel for your contribution!

AuthorKen Stewart

Here in Chicago on what has been affectionately named “The Block” is where the Dorchester Houses reside; The Archive House, Listening House and up until recently Black Cinema House. We are lucky enough to also be surrounded by a few amazing kids that keep us company at any given time. Program Manager Penny Duff took some time to talk with one of our youngest on the block, Mr. Mar’son. Check out the interview below. mar'son


Penny: What is your name?

Mar’son: Mar'son

P: How old are you?

M: 6 years old. My birthday is June 7th.

P: What have you been doing this summer?

M: Playing games. Mostly X-Box. Reading and playing music.

P: You've come over to the Archive House almost every day this summer to exchange books to read. How many books did you read from the Black Ink Book Exchange?

M: 10. (Note: Actual number is significantly higher.)

P: What is your favorite book that you've read from the library?

M: "Who am I? Sports." It was funny because he thought he was a fish, but he was really a swimmer. He never found out that he wasn't a fish.

P: You seem to really love to read. What kind of job do you want to do when you grow up?

M: I would like to be a librarian.

P: You’ve also become a member of the new Dorchester Family Band that meets every Saturday morning this summer. What instruments do you play?

M: You already know! I play the violin and the drums.

P: Which do you like best? Why?

M: Drums because they are very loud.

P: What is the loudest thing you've ever heard in your whole life?

M: The drums!!

P: So when you play the drums, you are making the loudest sounds you've ever heard in your entire life?

M: Yes.

P: Did you know those are sound waves pushing against you?

M: OH!

P: What is the name of your band that meets on Saturdays?

M: Scatterbox. I came up with the name.

P: What instruments are your uncle and grandma playing?

M: My uncle’s playing the guitar and my grandma plays keyboard.

P: What do you think about this building, and the stuff you do here and the people you meet here?

M: I like it all. I like coming over here.

P: Ok, Mar'son. Last question. Do you have a favorite joke?

M: Knock, Knock.

P: Who's there?

M: Marker.

P: Marker who?

M: Marker I'll scribble scrabble all over you.

This had to be the cutest interview of all time, thanks Penny!

AuthorKen Stewart

This summer, the Pink House in Pagedale, MO, partnered with Trailnet and Beyond Housing to take part in an Earn-2-Bikes education initiative.  Over the course of four Saturday workshops, participants age 13+ learned bicycle components, maintenance and safety in exchange for bicycles, locks, helmets and tune-ups, courtesy of Ferguson Bicycle Shop. "I see you out here on that bike getting buff," one neighbor commented to another, Mr. Curtis Lomax, who participated in the bicycle workshops.

Mr. Curtis has been supportive of the Pink House since its conception in 2011.  He describes it as a place that positively feeds the community when you take part. "It's amazing what happens when you participate," Mr. Curtis responded to his neighbor.  "Even with the bike program, I thought we would get used bikes.  But they were brand new, measured to fit."

IMG_5055Mr. Curtis and a new helmet

 Earn-2-Bikes facilitator, Trailnet's Rachel Sleeman, set an intensely positive tone for the workshops.  An avid cycler herself, she made it fun and easy to grow our knowledge base of the rights and responsibilities of bicycling safely.

IMG_5101Trailnet's Rachel Sleeman, pictured center, makes sure helmets fit comfortably

 We spent one workshop learning about the parts, taking bicycles apart and putting them back together.

IMG_5072Neighbor Shana Mitchell practices lifting a bicycle onto a bus rack

The workshops culminated with a group ride in the nearby St. Vincent Park


IMG_5124We are still in communication with Rachel and are in the process of planning our next group ride.

Special thank you to Earn-2-Bike participants Delilah Jackson, "Turk", Jeffrey Anderson, Gennelle Thomas, Shana Mitchell, Camia Harper and Curtis Lomax.  Thank you to Trailnet, Beyond Housing and the Trio Foundation for being a part of making this initiative possible.

Thank you to Rachel Sleeman of Trailnet

AuthorKen Stewart


A couple of the younger neighbors admiring the garden vision board. 

            Do the neighbors feel they have ownership of the Dorchester Community Garden? Do the neighbors believe they belong in the space? How can this placemaking project support a hope that the answer to those questions is yes?

Placemaking is defined many ways, one of which is cultural activities that shape the physical and social characteristics of a place. Good enough, but without beginning with the people who inhabit that space in mind, when is placemaking not just about making something pretty and welcoming?

Luckily, neighbors were in mind when we agreed to activate the Dorchester Community Garden as part of a placemaking challenge initiated by the Metropolitan Planning Council. Already a public space for cultivating fruits and vegetables, the Community Garden begged to become a place to foster quality time and play, whether gardening or not. It’s a large and inviting corner lot, offering a variety of fruits and vegetables in well placed garden beds (big ups to Penny Duff) to those who make it pass the less than appealing chain link fence.

REBUILD FOUNDATION collaborated with designer/builder Norman Teague, but it was really the neighbors who were his true collaborators. On the activation day, Norm and over thirty neighbors constructed an abstract structure and picnic table; the building began at 10am and ended at 5pm – both structures complete.

While we are thrilled with the products achieved that day, it is the process that stands out, one that we will hone over time. It was most important that the neighbors saw themselves building. Even for those who just passed by or stopped at the fence to see what was going on, who they saw in the Garden were by and large people representative and reflective of the neighborhood.

Though we are finished with that particular project, we have just begun placemaking in the Garden. Holding visioning lunches for the neighbors the weeks leading to the activation day served as important opportunities to better understand how neighbors want to be in that space. Also, sense the abstract structure is temporary, no doubt there will be more iterations of what the Garden can be. By first thinking of the neighbors’ relationship to the space, the possibilities of place are as diverse as they.

- Lauren Williams, Community+Artist Engagement Manager

AuthorKen Stewart

Warm weather and space can be perfect for a multitude of things but in specific, community gardens which seem to be popular and sprouting up everywhere. Gardens allow people the chance to be responsible for a small thing and with care grows into something amazing. Chicago has started a community garden in the lot on the corner of 70th St & Dorchester Ave, they’ve built 22 raised beds. Filled with about 70 items the garden has brought together neighbors, friends and many curious minds. Amia & Danny who are neighbors to the garden have played a influential part in the garden. With her artistic smock you can catch Mia and Danny anytime in the garden making sure that the vegetables and plants are watered and the grounds are maintained.


Program manager Penny Duff says, “by the end of the summer, we will have completed additional projects so that the lot will serve a range of purposes: community garden, outdoor classroom, and neighborhood social space. This includes building additional structures including an open-air community roundhouse, picnic table(s), signage, and possibly making amendments to the chain length fence to create an additional entrance.”

In St. Louis at the Pink House they have a Garden Installation class every week, where participants explore fundamentals of how to combine ancient and modern textile mark-making processes as they learn to build an assemblage of outdoor canopies inspired by the Pink House garden space. They’ve taken a space and are transforming it visually because who said garden’s can’t be aesthetically appealing? St. Louis program manager Gina Martinez gave me an outlook on the Pink House garden.

IMG_4721Neighbors of the Pink House visiting the Sunflowers that bloomed

Q: “How did you decide on the programming for the garden?”  Gina: "The sheer size of the Pink House garden area has always made it a standout on Salerno Drive in Pagedale, MO.  The property also contains a gazebo and smaller house adorned with ornate masonry work.  Some of our eldest neighbors' stories of former Pink House residents have shaped our understanding but we haven't met anyone who has lived here long enough to know the original mason."

Currently, friend and neighborhood partner, "Turk," has been shaping the Pink House garden space.  For raised garden beds, Turk deconstructed crates used for shipping art work for the frames.  This summer, we have been anticipating peppers, eggplant and squash.  In April, we collectively planted mammoth sunflowers which already stand 4 feet tall.  In May, Turk constructed a chime-like sculpture in the spirit of distracting animals who might stint the garden's growth.  The sculpture is made from old chandelier pieces, plastic from a store-bought air freshener and an old wire fruit basket.  This is one of Turk's first experiences growing flowers, fruits and vegetables.  He is learning as he grows and Pink House participants are sharing in the process with him.

IMG_6501Pictured Pink House gardener Turk 

I’ve been enjoying the sight of community gardens being a positive contribution within communities, allowing people the unique opportunity and responsibility for this space. I am excited to see how each and every community garden flourishes and develops.


AuthorKen Stewart