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Archive for November, 2013

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Members of the Waltham Committee organized an event titled, “Weeding out Fencing” in partnership with the Waltham Land Trust (WLT). Our prior project with the has already been documented and we have continued to pursue furthering our connections with WLT.

Sonja Wadman, Program Director at WLT presented in great detail the work of the organization. The mission of WLT is to create a legacy of land conservation. One of the drives that has been organized by the WLT has been the weeding out of Bittersweet vines in the local community. As an invasive species, it grows and spreads quickly, produce large quantities of easily dispersed seeds, and reproduce vegetatively, all traits that make controlling them a difficult task. These are harmful to the local vegetation, suffocates them as it reproduces and thrives.

While the idea of scouting for the vines was tempting, it was too late in the season. Instead Sonja displayed wreaths already made from vines  We hope to be involved in making wreaths late summer-early Fall next year.

Sonja presented the vast array of work that she and WLT are involved in. She works with community members, organizations, government agencies (city officials), neighborhood groups to mobilize change. Currently and really on the day of the event, WLT was petitioning the city officials to save Arrigo Farm which is the oldest farm in Waltham. Since the 1630’s it has been run by three families. With the passing of the last son of Placido Arrigo, John Arrigo in 2011, the farm has not been functioning. Developers have offered the 9 heirs a large sum of money to construct 19 homes.

The WLT is gathering signature to petition the City Council to acquire the farm using Community Preservation Act funds, and  lease the land as farmland. In effect the WLT is preserving the open space and historic nature of the property and surrounding land.

Sonja called upon Waltham Committee members to join WLT in this petition so that together we could participate in preserving a local agricultural farm, honor the history of farm working families and generate produce for the present and future inhabitants of Waltham. Scholars at WSRC signed on the petition in support of WLT’s work and to “save Arrigo farm.” The petition read “as Scholars at WSRC, we support retaining this site which is of cultural significance to the Waltham community and its collective memory.  We join other members of the Waltham community to demonstrate the power of preservation to contribute to the public good.”

An update from Sonja: “The public hearing of the Community Preservation Committee was fantastic! A dozen folks spoke, including several neighbors who learned about the project only because we canvassed their neighborhood; they were horrified. Two of the heirs spoke. Many people started tearing up at the lectern. It was rather emotional…Finally, they voted, I think unanimously, to approve the project and recommend acquisition to the City Council”

More details to follow. Stay tuned!

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Liz Markson, Resident Scholar and Waltham Committee member

As you are aware, the Waltham Committee has partnered with More than Words and supports their work through donating books. At the store, located at 273 Moody Street in Waltham, the youth run an inviting 501(c)3 nonprofit used bookstore featuring a wide array of titles, comfortable seating, and free wi-fi. A coffee bar offers Starbucks coffee, espresso, tea, and other popular café drinks, as well as delicious baked treats. Do give them a visit. On our part the Waltham Committee members thank Scholars for donating books and supporting this local initiative aimed at rehabilitating youth and rebuilding their potential through retail and online book sales. By supporting this social enterprise, WSRC through the Waltham Committee participates in this unique social innovation in action.

The Waltham Committee took its partnership with More than Words to an even newer territory. We invited the youth to visit WSRC gallery which was hosting an exhibit of photos by Vivian Maier. Titled Vivian Maier: A Woman’s Lens, this exhibit was one of its kind since it was being shown for the first time in the Greater Boston area.  The photographs are in striking black and white taken by Vivian Maier on streets of Chicago and New York in the 1950’s and 60’s.

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This  was the first time that the youth from More than Words came to the WSRC gallery. They were accompanied by Kelly Exley-Smith who is the Associate Site Director of Youth Development and Jennifer Pudder from More than Words. Michelle L’Hereux who is the Curator & Director of the Arts at WSRC and Rajashree Ghosh, Resident Scholar and Waltham Committee member welcomed them. Michelle spoke about the artist/photographer whose work has been discovered and displayed posthumously. She explained the history and techniques behind the photos. Each photograph was clear and tells a story and the youth were engaged and had plenty of observations and comments to make. Most of all they enjoyed the space and even tried their hand at the piano  in the salon! We feel that this interaction set the tone for continued partnership with More than Words.

In the end  Kelly Exley-Smith wrote,

“Thank you so much for having us!  We had a great time and the youth couldn’t stop talking about it on the way back.  For many of them, it was their first time in a gallery. They really appreciated having the opportunity to try out something new.,,,Thank you again for inviting our youth to your gallery and for giving themthe opportunity to experience something new.  I’m really looking forward to continue partnering in this work together.”

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ImageCommittee member Rajashree Ghosh, speaking to students of Environment and Justice class on September 30, 2013 (Photo credit: Ornit Barkai)

The Waltham Committee at Brandeis connects with Brandeis students and faculty in many ways. One of the programs offered, is an engaging, immersive academic program in which small groups of students explore a thematic topic through inquiry-based courses linked to real-world experiential opportunities. It provides them with opportunities to deeply engage in law, social impacts and the immediate needs of environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  The students work with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as they learn and combat issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and open space.

With faculty member Laura Goldin’s leadership and experience these students receive the training for  hands on multi-disciplinary community engaged learning program. In that connection she invited Rajashree Ghosh, as before, to present her work on urban governance and women in India. This gave the students an understanding of gender issues, poverty, deprivation and the community based initiatives that work on the ground to make changes to the lives of impoverished populations in slums in Delhi. Her presentation was followed by comments and questions by students. The conversations ranged from doing fieldwork in another country, government practices, women’s role, community engagement and many other issues that struck the students as key in the understanding of the project.

In a note sent, the students said that they found the presentation “informative and encouraging.” For Rajashree and members of the Waltham Committee, this connection with the students and faculty member is an extension of the relationship with the community. As with the larger Brandeis community, WSRC through the Waltham Committee engages with the local community and determine ways in which to make a difference.

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