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Compassion and Commerce IKEA-Style

By 2019, consumers will be able to support Syrian refugees by shopping at IKEA (in select markets). Sweden-based IKEA plans to employ 200 Syrian women refugees in Jordan. To get this initiative going, IKEA is working with organizations focused on women’s issues. Employing 200 refugees of the 655,000 men, women, and children currently displaced in Jordan is just a drop in an enormous bucket. But, it’s a start. Here in the US, the chances are slim that we will ever be able to buy a Syrian refugee-made rug. Our only hope would be for compassionate trade exemptions to be made on current international trade agreements.

This is not IKEA’s only expression of corporate compassion, IKEA has also donated $33.3 million for lighting and renewable energy projects in refugee camps in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Wow, thank you IKEA!


Thanks IKEA

Congratulations to the 2016 Design of the Year recipient: Better Shelter, designed by the IKEA Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency. The Design Museum in London awarded the 2016 Beazley Design Award in architecture to Better Shelter: a flat-pack, 68 component, modular refugee shelter, which can be assembled in a few hours. Unrest has forced thousands of men, women, and children to flee their homes. As refugees, they are stranded awaiting peace or a new life. Better Shelter provides a crisis shelter for these displaced families, while preserving their dignity and meeting a very basic need: the security of having a roof over their head. While so many are turning their backs or casting a blind eye to a humanitarian crisis, IKEA has put to use their flat-pack technology to help relieve human suffering. Thanks IKEA.

As designers, we can find meaningful inspiration through comments made by Jana Scholze, a Beazley Award juror: “Providing not only a design, but secure manufacture, as well as distribution, makes this project relevant and even optimistic. It shows the power of design to respond to the conditions we are in and transform them.”

For a closer look, please visit: bettershelter.org

The Definition of Painstaking

Valerie Lueth and Paul Roden of Tugboat Printshop have spent 3 years perfecting a single woodblock print. The pair have devoted thousands of hours to “Overlook,” a 30″ x 46″ richly detailed, colorful print which depicts a woodland scene of mountains, rolling hills, and foliage. The painstaking and impressive process is well documented at thisiscolossal.com.
I wish that one of my loved ones had rolled up a print of “Overlook” and slipped it in my Christmas stocking. It can be pre-ordered (hint) here on Tugboat’s official website.

Mix It Up!

Bring out the holly, mistletoe, and disco balls! ’Tis the season of spreading holiday cheer and celebrating the coming year. A proper New Year’s Eve celebration must include party hats, noise makers, a dance floor, and a shimmering disco ball. Is a construction site an acceptable place to welcome 2017? Mais, oui! The lucky people of Lyon, France can ring in the new year with artist Benedetto Bufalino and his Disco Ball Cement Truck. Bufalino is known for creating public art installations and his Disco Ball Cement Truck is his latest creation. Oh, those French know how to celebrate. Happy New Year!

Where Would We Be Today…

… If not for a lesser-known Christmas Day birth of Robert Noel Hall? Mr. Hall was born on December 25th, 1919 in New Haven, Connecticut. He spent most of his professional life working for GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY (my home town and a suburb of Schenectady, NY) as an inventor. In 1962, Mr. Hall demonstrated the first semiconductor laser, which opened the gates to all kinds of future innovation. In the early 1960s, Mr. Hall and his colleagues at GE were developing the ground work for the technology we know and love today. “There is so much in our lives we take for granted today that traces back to Bob’s diode laser,” says Marshall Jones, a principal engineer at GE Global Research and another laser pioneer. To be honest, I understand so little about what these guys were up to back then. What I do know is that their inventions have made our lives better. Thanks to Robert (Bob) Noel Howard, the Christmas baby, who died a little over a month ago on November 7th at the age of 96.


Very Private Art Collection


Beauty school magnate and race horse breeder Vincent Melzac drove a hard bargain with artists. His negotiating style allowed him to become a notable collector of the Washington Color School. The Washington Color School (1950s to 1960s) was an abstract visual art movement which developed out of the color field movement. Since Melzac’s death, his original collection has not remained intact. It has been broken up and parceled out, with a majority of works residing at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, and The Phillips Collection.

There is, however, some mystery associated with Melzac’s collection. Does the CIA have a portion of this collection in their Langley, VA headquarters? A CNN Style report from February of 2016 states: “The CIA says it is proud to own the collection and acknowledges that it is considered among the most important modern art collections owned by the U.S. government. CIA media spokesman Glenn Miller says 11 paintings were purchased by the agency from Melzac in 1987, but does not give any further details on the acquisition.” This quote makes me believe there is a very private collection in Langley, but what’s in it?


It’s the Great 5-0, Charlie Brown!


Happy Birthday to everyone’s favorite TV Halloween special. “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,”—the third Peanuts special produced and animated by Bill Melendez, based on Charles M. Schultz’s comic strip—turns 50 this season. A total of 45 Peanuts television specials exist. Vulture, an entertainment news site, evaluated all 45 specials and created a “worst to best list.” No surprise, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was rated as everyone’s all-time favorite Peanuts special, and “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” followed in second place.

This Halloween classic debuted October 27, 1966 at a time when children had but one chance a year to see any Peanuts special. All ages planned ahead, marked their calendars, cleared their schedules, had dinner early, finished their homework so as to be able to sit together for the single annual opportunity to enjoy “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” This one-time-only opportunity made these specials even more “special.”

Today, it doesn’t have to be Halloween for us to enjoy any Peanuts classic. In fact, you can celebrate Halloween and the 50th Birthday of “The Great Pumpkin” by watching it right now.

Documenting the New Frontier

Pyramid Lake, Nevada, as photographed by Timothy O’Sullivan in 1867.

Pyramid Lake, Nevada, as photographed by Timothy O’Sullivan in 1867.

In 1867, the US Government established the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. Clarence King, a scientist and Yale graduate, was appointed to lead the expedition. King’s goal was to conduct a geological survey of the land between the 105th and the 120th meridians along the 40th parallel. Several geological colleagues joined the expedition including a botanist, an ornithologist, and a photographer. Civil War photographer, Timothy O’Sulliavan was hired to document the expedition. The government’s goal was to attract settlers to the area, and to map and document a 15,000 square mile area between the California Sierra Nevada and Shoshone Mountain Range. A base camp was established near present day Reno. O’Sullivan combined art and science and became the first photographer to capture nature in a pre-industrialized America. Timothy O’Sullivan (c.1840-1882) was in his mid-twenties when he embarked on this journey to document the American West. His incredible work has influenced generations of landscape photographers, including Ansel Adams (1902-1984).

Comic Simplicity




“When words do not work, there are comics.” This is what Kate Ryan, writer at Good magazine, wrote in reaction to climate change denial. Ryan is referencing Randall Munroe’s history of the planet comic timeline. From my perspective this is anything BUT comical or remotely funny. However, it is super simplified. It begins with the start of time and scrolls through thousands and thousands of years. From 20000 BCE where it is “still pretty cold” to the domestication of cattle, the Renaissance, concluding with present day and a 2100 projection. Take a look and shake your head in disbelief — there is no remaining space for denial. Please take a moment and scroll Munroe’s timeline.


“Burners” Unite in the Desert


Since 2004, from the last Sunday in August to the first Monday in September, creative-types (aka “Burners”) interested in self-expression, have traveled to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to construct and perform art. “Burning Man,” is a theme-based festival with the primary objective of creating a temporary community of interactive sculpture, installations, architecture, art cars, and performances. In order to participate, all “Burning Man” works must be planned around a predetermined theme. This year “Da Vinci’s Workshop” was assembled and displayed for seven days. And as with tradition, this year’s finale was as spectacular as the event itself. On day seven, the entire community was burned to the ground. 360 days from now, “Burners” will reunite and do it all over again.



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