It's that time of year when everyone's 'top ten best' and 'worst' lists-in film, theatre, books, and music- are in full circulation. Admittedly, it's unnerving to realize I saw none of the top ten movies being offered up by the critics I trust. Nor did I download any of the top ten songs although I do actually know Adele's "hello," and get Taylor Swift's take on "blank space." As my blog post's being released in the waning days of 2015, it seems apt to join the chorus with a list of my own. When trolling my memory of the past year's EDRA experiences and encounters I was able to surface some highlights and a list featuring many of the spirited and inspiring colleagues and friends who are part of "my edra" community. They're doing the serious work of producing environments where people and place matter and remembering them makes me smile. So, here goes....
1. Who said, "Legos are for kids?"
Not James Rojas! Cities, people and places are James' passion, and he uses Legos to interactively engage people of all ages in co-creating and planning their cities. It was inspiring to meet this LA-based community activist, artist and planner who brought his experience, knowledge and insights to the dialogue at EDRA46's Democratic Design Intensive. And, over dinner later on, it was great to keep the dialogue and connection going strong!
2. UC Davis community development grads rock!
If It isn't inspiring enough to be in the same room with UC Davis rock stars like Patsy Eubanks Owens, Michael Rios, David de la Pena and Sheryl Ann-Simpson, then you need to meet one of their recent grads, Yohei Kato. Yohei graduated last spring with a Masters in Community Development but before leaving, he played a key role in spearheading the Participatory Practices Timeline Project in UC Davis's Center for Design in the Public Interest. Yohei is one of the newest generation of EDRA-ites who'll be rocking our world and evolving design's democratic and public interests far into the future!
3. Beards may be in vogue but ponytails are sooooooo EDRA
I've been wearing my hair in a ponytail since last spring's EDRA46. Of course I thought it was because my hairdresser left town and growing my hair was to protest. But then it dawned on me... aha, the Democratic Design Intensive's where it all began! It was a "really intensive" day, as many of us exclaimed and that was in no small part due to the fact that Randy Hester and Henry Sanoff were two of the day's key organizers (along with Jeff Hou and Rachel Berney). In addition to being model democratic designers, Randy and Henry are well-known EDRA trendsetters when it comes to ponytails. Let Congress have its beards and EDRA claim her ponytails. Hear, hear...to ponytails... may they freely wave!
4. Uber in LA
After they summoned a ride and voila, within minutes, a driver appeared outside our restaurant I knew Lynne Dearborn and Mallika Bose were the fully seasoned Uber users they said they were. Before I knew it, they'd pushed me in the backseat and we were off for my very first Uber ride, ever, back to the EDRA46 conference hotel. Of course Lynne and Mallika, who've both been EDRA Chairs, are expert at many, many things. So, it's not surprising that Uber is just one of the many, many apps they can readily call up on their iPhones. Alas, it's hard to keep up with those two, but now, I too can boast I've downloaded the Uber app, test-driven and broken it in too. Thanks Mallika and Lynne, for once again, bringing me along for the ride!
5. Meeting EDRA friends in Norway
Just following EDRA's LA conference I took off for the Defining Landscape Democracy Conference organized by the Centre for Landscape Democracy at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. EDRA gatherings usually include late nights and round the clock interactions but they can pale compared to June in Norway, where the daylight lingers almost til midnight and nightlife takes on a whole new meaning. There in Norway to keep me alert and wide-awake were Joern Langhorst, Julia Badenhope, and Richard Alomar. And, Deni Ruggeri, Helena Nordh and Anne-Karine Halvorsen Thoren, who'd just themselves returned from EDRA46, were among our conference hosts in the land of the midnight sun.
6. And in Baltimore and Chicago too!
In September, I shared a session with Nadia Anderson and Mallika Bose at the Imagining America (IA) Conference where the year's theme was "America Will Be! The Art and Power of Weaving our We." Also at IA was Kush Patel with whom I enjoyed great conversations responding to the conference's many provocations related to the arts, humanities and design in public life. And in November, EDRA members were in full force at the Chicago gathering of the American Society of Landscape Architects. There together in the windy city were Julie Stevens, Daniel Winterbottom, Randy Hester, Marcia McNally, Mallika Bose, Kofi Boone, Laura Lawson and many, many others!
7. Brussels sprouts and food trucks in Madison
Brussels sprouts always deliver bountifully in the fall, but who knew they'd be found growing at the foot of Wisconsin's capitol in the heart of downtown Madison. There within a little 'rond point' garden, at the corner of W. Mifflin and N. Carroll Streets, a crop of sprouts triumphantly proclaimed its vegetable rights to public space. The sprouts seemed right at home in a spot, which is weekly transformed into a bustling Farmers Market encircling the capitol. Introducing the sprouts to Shauna Mallory-Hill, who'd never actually seen them in the flesh, was an added delight. You see, Shauna is our outgoing EDRA Chair and an architect and interior design professor par excellence, so it makes sense that it would take a landscape architect to introduce her to this noble member of the Brassicacae family! Nearby, on N. Pinckney, also in the capitol's shadow, EDRA's Board spent its annual weekend retreat at the AMPED headquarters, putting their heads (not of the cabbage variety) together around the conference table. Our productivity was surely nurtured by the setting and not to mention, our lunchtime feast served up from the fabulous food trucks parked just outside!
8. Connecting with great Communicators!
As EDRA's Secretary on the Board, I've got the task of heading up the Communications Committee. I want to give a shout out to the amazing team of volunteers working on this committee, behind the scenes, over the past year. EDRA members Sarah Shuster-Tucker and Seunghae Lee both volunteered their expertise to conduct an EDRA website audit and now their recommendations are helping guide a website makeover in the coming year. Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, just wrapped on her final issue (#6) of EDRA Connections (EC). For the past three years, she's been the EC editor extraordinaire overseeing this peer-reviewed venue she launched while serving on the EDRA Board. Tassoula is stepping down having fully established EDRA Connections and so that its newest editor, Nisha Fernando, can carry on what she so successfully began!
Did you know that Nana Kirk has been manually scanning all, yes all of the back issues of the EDRA Proceedings to make them fully retrievable and searchable? This herculean task is now 100% complete thanks to Nana. And did you know that it's due to Marwa Abdelmonem's creativity and dedicated work that we now have the EDRA-ite of the Month feature on our Facebook page and website? Marwa just finished her 2-year term as Student Member of the Edra Board but she's graciously agreed to continue volunteering and working with her successor, Molly Ranahan, who now leads our social media sub-committee. An amazing group... thank you all for your incredible energy, contributions and communications!!
9. Good things come in threes
Three is a good number-doable, manageable and because it's more than two, also aspirational. And, three things can easily be memorized too, which is what every EDRA Board member agreed they'd do with our 3 Top Priorities for 2016. Whew, it was quite a lively dialogue and exchange at our Fall Retreat, that got the Board to consensus on this miraculous triad. It goes like this:
- In 2016, we are committed to developing and engaging our membership
- In 2016, we are strengthening our organizational structure and capacity
- In 2016, we are prioritizing our programs and projects with member input.
Of course, it was Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi, our fearless chair and leader, who bravely led us in the task of strategically planning and defining these priorities. Gowri reeled us in, focused our efforts and created space for constructive and deliberative dialogue. We certainly wouldn't have gotten there without her. But watch out, if you find yourself alone with Gowri in an elevator, she's certain to make you recite the big 3!
10. Look backs are good, and look aheads keep us going...
2015 may be windng down, but the wind up to 2016 and EDRA47 is well underway. I was twelve and many of us were even younger or maybe not even born when EDRA's first birthday got underway - 47 years ago-in Raleigh, North Carolina. It's in the very same place that we'll be gathering this coming May thanks to the efforts of many and especially our co-chairs at NC State University, Celen Pasalar and Andrew Fox. This year's theme: Innovaton: Shifting Ground, says it all. Like people, organizations grow up and grow old. But they also stay young and new as the ground shifts and flows of ideas, knowledge and innovation move through and in them. EDRA's 47 years young this year and I, for one, look forward to what another new year of EDRA experiences is sure to bring. Onward ho, into 2016 we go!!