Uptown Summer 2018: Environmental Justice and Resilience

This year’s theme was telling stories of environmental justice and resilience, culminating in a youth-led 2018 NATURE Lab Design Think-Tank … and the origin of People’s Health Sanctuary!

Watch the entire Uptown Summer 2018 Video Playlist here, or check out individually below.

Uptown Summer 2018 youth took tours of the site for the new Nature Lab, one of the last abandoned buildings on the block purchased by the Sanctuary in 2018.

Simone Johnson, a farmer and dancer from Staten Island, came to Uptown Summer 2018 to teach the summer youth how to translate feelings and ideas into movement. The youth chose to translate five different environmental justice challenges in North Troy to express their struggle and hopes for the future. The words they translated were drugs, lack of recreation, pollution, poverty, and help. They choreographed a dance together to express the point of view of the abandoned building, soon to be turned in to NATURE Lab.

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty
Edited by Catherine Rafferty

Cameron Toler, architect and designer from NYC, trained the summer youth employees on how to host a design clinic with the goal to determine how Nature Lab can be used to combat challenges in census tract 404.

Videography by Chris Johnstone Edited by Catherine Rafferty

The Sanctuary held the community design think tank on July 31st to get community input on the design of the building. Guests at the think-tank included Congressman Paul Tonko, Sage Colleges President Dr. Christopher Ames, and Aaron Mair, environmental justice activist. This was just the beginning of a process to create a space that can truly serve the community!

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty Edited by Catherine Rafferty

Environmental Education and Arts Workshops

A key objective was to provide youth with knowledge and skills to become environmental stewards and stand up for environmental justice in their communities. Researching environmental challenges through scientific, creative, and social justice lenses, participants learned hands-on skills like gardening, plant-identification, and biological sampling.  Youth developed leadership skills, enriching their urban ecologies.

The Uptown Summer youth took a short walk from the Sanctuary to examine the Hudson River water at Ingalls Ave Boat Launch. The youth become citizen scientists, studying sampled water and taking active roles in research and development in their community.

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty Edited by Chris Johnstone

The Uptown Summer youth had the opportunity to assist the DEC in research on American eels in the Poestenkill, with Chris Bowzher as mentor. Kai became the eel whisperer for the day.

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty
Edited by Catherine Rafferty

The Uptown Summer 2018 youth put together a time capsule of seeds in collaboration with Next Epoch Seed Library, during the Deep Time Seed Futures workshop. They collected plant seeds likely to survive the unpredictable future, and buried them at the future sight of the NATURE Lab in North Troy.

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty. Edited by Chris Johnstone

Uptown Summer receives a flock of chickens to care for throughout the 2018 program. The chickens will give us with eggs, turn our green waste into compost… and provide a bit of adventure if they fly the coop! Thank you Kim Tateo and Tivoli Preserve Community Farm for sharing their flock!

In the final week, the Uptown Summer crew reflect on working in the garden. Their thoughts accompany the land and soundscapes found in this urban green space located on the Sanctuary’s Environmental Education Campus in North Troy.

The youth of Uptown Summer ’18 visited Soul Fire Farm, a farm in upstate New York is dedicated to addressing the painful history of farmwork to Black people in the US, while also growing fresh vegetables and community surrounding it.

Videography by Chris Johnstone and Catherine Rafferty Edited by Chris Johnstone

And here’s a reflective piece with voices of youth at Collard CIty Growers gardens… created by Sanctuary Video Intern Chris Johnstone, who came all the way from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and spent the summer of 2018 living on the block across from Collard City Growers in North Central!

Videography by Chris Johnstone
Edited by Chris Johnstone

Sharing stories through media production

With a low-power radio station, an arsenal of equipment, and a network of media professionals on site, the Sanctuary is well-equipped to introduce youth to the skills and methodologies of media production. The Uptown Summer ’18 youth researched, planned, recorded, and edited stories of environmental justice and resilience to be broadcast on WOOC 105.3! Throughout the process they engaged in their communities by recording at public events, collecting data through social media, and reaching out to local experts. Check out Uptown Summer 2018 youth radio stories.

Art Workshops

2018 workshops and activities:

Staff, Interns, and Volunteers:

Branda Miller, Uptown Summer Coordinator, Professor, Arts, RPI
Kathy High, Nature Lab Coordinator, Professor, Arts, RPI
Ellie Irons, Mentor, Arts PhD student, RPI
Hana van der Kolk, Mentor, Arts PhD student, RPI
Julia Cavicchi, Radio Production Coordinator, Skidmore Intern
Durasia Anderson, Data Justice, RPI Intern
Catherine Rafferty, Photography and Video Post-Production, RIT Intern
Christopher Johnstone, Video Production and Post-Production, Concordia Intern
Lydia Robb, Social Media and Urban Ecology, Concordia Intern
Maya Sanders, Grassroots Science, RPI
Van Tran Nguyen, Developmental Teaching Assistant, Arts PhD student, RPI
Patrick Quinn, Developmental Teaching Assistant, Arts PhD student, RPI
Adam Simon, Skidmore Intern
Jonathan Segol, KitchenSanctuary Chef

Uptown Summer 2018 would not have been possible without the support of people like you and from McCarthy Charities, the B’nai B’rith Gideon Foundation and the Bender Scientific Fund of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, Troy Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, Skidmore Community Arts Program,  National Endowment for the Arts Art Works, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant and Stewart’s Shops.

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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