January 10, 2010

Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Ashley Fisher from the Bloomington Area Arts Council in response to criticisms leveled by local artists in The Bloomington Alternative and other local media.


Fallout from the past

The new (Bloomington Area Arts Council) Board's 10-month story starts with the realization at the beginning of 2009 that the organization was failing -- again. Sensing this, both Ashley Fisher and Rob Hanrahan, who had recently joined the BAAC -- Fisher as a new Board member in October 2008 and Hanrahan November 2008 as a fundraising consultant -- took up the challenge as President of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director respectively in March 2009 to address the long-term sustainability of the arts council, despite its weakened state at that time. Both believed that the organization could be transformed -- and still do.

January 10, 2010

Fallen leaves crunch beneath the steps of 20-plus sixth graders as they run about with clipboards in hand behind Edgewood Primary School. Carroll Ritter watches the miniature scientists, equipped with tape measurers and calculators, in their quests to determine the diameters and circumferences of surrounding trees.

"Yes, I knew it!" exclaims a boy, pumping a reddened fist into the air when his math comes out correctly. Within the next 30 minutes, each student's calculations will prove a familiar mathematical concept: pi = 3.14.

"Today's exercise is a practical use of math with hands-on outdoor experience," says Ritter, the environmental education coordinator at Sycamore Land Trust (SLT). "A lot of subjects can be taught using the outdoors. It's fun, it's practical, and it's real world."

November 1, 2009

I gotta admit that I cringed when I pulled up the last issue of The Bloomington Alternative and saw editor Steve's piece on the new county Comprehensive Plan.

And I cringed even more as I read the piece, choc-a-bloc as it was full of assurances from my friend and County Commissioner Mark Stoops that this time the community was going to be able to get a hold of its destiny.

More than a decade's worth of involvement in land-use issues -- including the epiphany that almost the entirety of local government's existential purpose is not to provide police and fire protection, or the justice system, or anything else other than to arbitrate land use -- had left me rather cynical about the topic.

October 18, 2009

Editor's Note: On Oct. 8, Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs interviewed Monroe County Commissioner Mark Stoops about a proposed new master plan for future growth and development in Monroe County. A portion of the interview aired on the Oct. 15 edition of WFHB Community Radio's EcoReport. What follows is a transcript of that interview.

Stoops and two fellow Monroe County Plan Commissioners -- Richard Martin and John Irvine -- wrote the proposed Growth Policies Plan, which would serve as a blueprint for future growth and development in the county outside established cities and towns.

According to Stoops, the proposal would ban development in environmentally sensitive areas and in the "Rural Area" outside the urbanized sections of Bloomington and Ellettsville and around smaller towns like Harrodsburg.

October 18, 2009

At first, I was horrified to learn that Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences had gone ahead this year and awarded a prize in Economics. That horror abated some when I learned it had been awarded, for the first time ever, to a woman. And it abated more when I understood that she was a faculty member here at Indiana University, a fact that replaced much of the horror with pride.

But what really turned things for me, what allowed that final sigh of total relief, was the revelation that the prize for Economics hadn't gone to an economist at all. IU's Elinor Ostrom is a political scientist.

Why was that important? Because the state of the dismal science is dismal. It's more than dismal, it's dreadful. It's embarrassing.

October 4, 2009

From all parts of the world, from south to north and west to east, Muslims celebrated Eid this year at the Islamic Center of Bloomington. At the moment when the Imam said, "God is great," they all repeated it devotionally. And their smiles told each other, "I'm happy."

Some wore traditional clothing, while others wore suits and ties. The clothes offered an "international fashion show," according to Mohamed, a member of the Muslim community. "All people here might know where they are from according to their clothes."

The Eid is the day that comes after the holy month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. Eid in Arabic means "returns annually with refreshing faith." It is celebrated on the first day of Shaw'waal, the 10th month, which means "festivity," which this year was on Sept. 20.

September 20, 2009

Ted Kennedy saved my life, at least according to my mother. It was sometime in the mid 1960s, and she and I were walking down Boston's Beacon Hill when I broke away and began running toward a busy intersection. Just as I arrived at the end of the curve, a figure rounded the corner and, with an outstretched arm, whisked me from almost certain automotive death.

That figure was none other than Ted Kennedy. At least according to my mom. And, also according to her, after saving my life he carried my mother's groceries home for her.

Apocryphal or not, I've always admired the Kennedys as the standard bearers and most public repositories of the canon of liberal Democratic social values. Each impossibly and tragically flawed in character, nevertheless they carried a vision of the world not as it was, but what it could and should be, while relentlessly asking the question of why it wasn't so.

I remembered that question, when Ted Kennedy passed away last month, and I remembered its most succinct expression as I first learned it from Kennedy's eulogy to his brother, Robert. A eulogy devastating in its emotional impact on anyone who can bear to listen to it and made ever more so by the fact that it was a eulogy largely written by Robert Kennedy himself, from a speech in Cape Town delivered in 1966.

August 9, 2009

This has been a most interesting week for us, what with all the boy scouts in town. In case you missed it, there were over 7,000 Order of the Arrow boy scouts and their leaders on campus and about town dressed in various quasi-military uniforms and sometimes Native American costumes. Seems like they would have been difficult to miss, but admittedly our offices are located in the heart of campus in an area that also served as base camp operations for the troops.

Maybe we are just suffering from testosterone overload, but it was our sense that their presence stimulated a variety of emotions that led to public discussion, community dissension in some instances, and yet there was a camaraderie that was visibly shared by boys and men of all ages and difficult to ignore. And, we are pleased to say, the community didn't entirely ignore their presence. In fact, a panel discussion titled "Order of the Arrow: Racism, Homophobia, and Religious Appropriation in Scouting?" was held at Rachael's Cafe.

Sponsored by the Bloomington Committee Against Racism and Homophobia in Youth, the Native American Community Center of Bloomington, Inc., OUT, Ohio Valley Two Spirit Society and bloomgOUT, the panel drew a sizeable crowd for summer in Bloomington and was a mixture of community members, IU faculty, students, high school students, native Americans, scouts and members of the LGBTQ community and friends who came together to discuss the various charges of homophobia and racism leveled at the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

August 9, 2009

More than 480 high school students from around the United States learned about Islam during the IU High School Journalism Institute Summer Workshop in July. Zakariah D. Love, a member of the Bloomington Islamic Center, called it "a good opportunity for the students to create knowledge about Islam interactively, rather than to receive it from the media."

The Summer Workshop challenges students' viewpoints and enables them to have the chance to meet a variety of people from different perspectives and to approach and interview them, said Institute Director Teresa A. White, a full-time lecturer at the IU School of Journalism. "We want to instruct and improve journalistic and publication staff skills and give our students the opportunity to be more knowledgeable, professional and open-minded."

To help achieve this goal on the topic of Islam, students wrote feature stories, straight news stories or editorials about a lecture presented by IU professor Faiz Rahman, president of the Islamic Center in Bloomington. They also interviewed members of the Bloomington Islamic Center.

July 26, 2009

As Paula Ionescu explains the themes behind her paintings on display at City Hall, she can’t help but smile. Her art utilizes the colors of spring, the time of the year she enjoys most. One of her pieces, “Daffodil,” depicts her favorite flower. But as vibrant as her paintings are, Ionescu hasn’t always been in such good spirits.

Her paintings are the result of art therapy sessions held by Centerstone, an organization that provides mental health and addiction services to more than 18,000 Indiana residents annually. Ionescu says the paintings, which are being displayed as part of this year’s Centerstone “Art of Mental Health” exhibition, have aided in coping with depression. She is not the only person who has found relief in the unconventional sessions.

Shallus Quillen, another Centerstone artist, says the sessions have helped reduce her anxiety. Quillen, who engaged self-destructive activities, says the Centerstone art sessions are the only effective form of therapy she has found. Becoming involved with the sessions has been “the best thing ever,” because it has given her an alternative to self-harm. “It’s easier to paint than hurt myself,” she says.

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