“She was a fabulous draftsman, designer composer - her compositions - the values the colors...!” Retired artist and teacher Aurora Gold expressed feeling overwhelmed (in a good way) by Oakley’s artwork while touring through an exhibit at the Woodmere Art Museum of high resolution photos of the murals Oakley created for the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Upon discovering Oakley’s American Renaissance style paintings when she was younger , Gold immediately fell in love with them and questions why in art school, she wasn’t introduced to Oakley along with the great masters. Gold has been visiting the Woodmere for more than 65 years and began bringing her art students from the Stephens Country Day School in Chestnut Hill to the Woodmere back in 1952. Upon overhearing Gold wax poetic about the work on display conversing with a companion, your correspondent shortly afterward coaxed Gold to be recorded describing her fascination with the artist and how impressed she was with Woodmere's exhibit. Watch video interview of artist teacher extol American Renaissance painter Violet Oakley.
Sarah Mitteldorf's physical theater ensemble, Kaleid ("As in Kaleidoscope. As in Collide") had a work in progress last fall and then, as she tells it, "November 8th happened" and they had to scrap the piece. In response to the nasty and violent rhetoric directed against women, people of color, and the LGBT community that led up to President Trump's election and in response to what Mitteldorf calls a developing "national narrative" of disconnect and exclusion, they are using the tools available to them as creative artists. In her director role, Mitteldorf asks her actors to express the emotions that the current social climate triggers, such as disbelief and anger, through layered text and movement. Kaleid Theater will perform "Scape-ing" at the First United Church of Germantown on April 27, 28 and 29. Watch video interview here.
Kalam Shaheen a new United States Postal Service mail carrier hasn't yet received an official uniform allowance so when a guy came around the Post Office [in the hot weather] offering workers tank tops emblazoned with the Postal Service logo, she bought one out of pocket. Now she believes she is starting a style trend among "the girls." Your correspondent recalled seeing her making deliveries Sunday, the day before. Shaheen says that substitutes are required to work Sundays, delivering Amazon packages. She knows she has a lot of hard work ahead of her the next couple years but as someone who hasn't attended college. she is hoping to turn this job into a career as it offers benefits and a pension. Watch video here.
Nine hundred dollars is how much Kabria Johnson’s friend told Johnson she made in one day driving for the ride-sharing service Uber. Out on just her third day on the job, the pretty, twenty-one year old “Uber X “driver says she is not afraid for her safety. She knows where to hit you. And since Uber tracks the time and distance through GPS and charges the customer’s credit card, drivers don’t need to carry cash.
Johnson holds down a job in customer service with U.S. Airways and is in the process of being approved, also, by the competing ride service, Lyft. She is saving up to pay off a loan on her other car, get an apartment and buy furniture. And she’s planning a big cookout for herself and five younger siblings this coming Mother’s day which, sadly, will be their first without their Mom who died last October.
It was a smooth ride in Johnson’s newly acquired 2006 Toyota Prius with over 200,000 miles on it, but seeming in good condition, that she uses exclusively when driving for Uber. She was unfazed when another driver rolled down his window at a stop to point out that one of our tires appeared to be flat. We pulled over into a gas station briefly to get some air. Johnson says she has Triple A service and family all over the city to come to her aid if need be. As for me, her rider, Johnson smiles, if she hadn’t been able to get me to my destination, another Uber driver would likely have been summoned to scoop me up for the final leg of my journey within a matter of minutes.
Langston Darby held an icepack to his jaw before his program on “Found Objects: Unleash the Voice of the Everyday through Performance“ at the Chestnut Hill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. But the icepack was to ease the pain of an earlier dentist appointment and not part of his program, one of many events in the Library’s One Book One -Philadelphia celebration. This year’s selection, The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline is about the relationship of an older woman, Vivian and a young woman, Molly. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who has lived in various foster homes and gotten into trouble. Molly is assigned community service to help Vivian sort through the many keepsakes Vivian has stored in her attic. These objects evoke memories of the older woman’s own traumatic childhood experiences after she was sent on an “orphan train” from New York City to the Midwest during the Great Depression subsequent to the death of her Irish immigrant parents and siblings in a tenement fire.
Darby led our small assemblage through improvisation centering on objects- like a certain knife from our own memories and then had us feel for and pick the thing out of a “magic bag”, instructing us to let the object choose us. A sparkly dark orange artificial pumpkin chose one of us, a large black plastic knight/horse from a chess set, another. A small book chose your correspondent. Recommended reading: The Orphan Train.
At the age of six, Bishnu Kamar (left) fled her native Bhutan where, she says, the government was trying to kill its own people. She lived the next twenty-two years in a bamboo house in a refugee camp in Nepal, to where many ethnic Nepalis fled, under harsh, cramped conditions. She and her companions, Dropada Kafley (middle) and Mon Maya Bastola (right), now live with their families in South Philadelphia. With the help of an American friend they started a community farm and now tend nearly 100 beds. In Nepal, they had farmed rice, corn and “all kinds of vegetables.”
On Thursdays the threesome takes the bus up to the Weavers Way Henry-Got-Crops Farm in Roxborough to better learn American farming techniques.
In addition to farming, Kamar takes care of her mother-in-law, works in a pre-school and, after an intensive 6-month study of English, also works as a Nepali language interpreter in a hospital.
HOW IS IT GOING FOR YOU NOW IN SOUTH PHILADELPHIA?
“It’s awesome. Because we spend our life -is a very good way. We are good now. And I think my future can be good. I can try hard…”
During a break from cultivating and weeding a raised bed of peas at the Weavers Way Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough where he volunteers, your correspondent captured a slice of life on the farm.
The farm grows crops mainly for the 120 members of the CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture” organization) but also regularly sells product through the Weavers Way stores in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, at an onsite farm stand and downtown at Head House Square.
When I arrived, CSA Manager Nina Berryman was busily sketching out the day’s plan on a chalkboard in the farm shed. I followed Berryman around as she lamented some stunted carrots with experienced worker Minna Latortue, who had just graduated nursing school, examined the cold season greens in the hoop houses, made plans with Laura Mass Forsberg to plant potatoes later in the day then getting her started on a weeding task and finally doing what she calls the hardest part of the job, doing deskwork at a laptop computer communicating with CSA members and such.
I caught up with farm educator Tara Campbell as she waited for the first of four school groups to arrive and watched as she and educator Clare Hyre prepped students from Saul Agricultural High School (where the farm is located) and got them out working down the field.
And ebullient compost guy Scott Blunk showed off the composting operation as he directed a frontend loader to dump just-arrived vegetable waste into the ten thousand pound capacity grinder and activated it massive rotating tines. See small video of Blunk here
Your correspondent shot some footage of cows grazing peacefully but did not include it in the accompanying video because the dairy operation belongs to the Saul School and not Henry Got Crops. Your correspondent also looks forward to comparing notes and photos with Lanie Blackmer who later arrived to do a story for WHYY/Newsworks.