Profiling a Young Filmmaker

I was fortunate to have the chance to interview Bryn Mawr alumna Rehema Trimiew about her 2010 documentary Learning to Fly (watch it online) for her College Alumnae Bulletin. She spent four months in Zambia, filming a group of inspiring, determined young girls who are orphans and encouraging them to tell their stories and make films of their own, on cameras and computers Rehema had donated. Along the way she also learned an array of valuable lessons about the realities of on-the-ground filmmaking, as well as the resilience and creativity this work requires. She has since written a book about the process of making the film, which includes material from her MFA thesis.

I wish Rehema success with her future film projects, and look forward to following her promising career.

Gaining Leverage

I spent much of 2011 helping the Community Design Collaborative to create a book in celebration of the organization’s 20th anniversary. The result is LEVERAGE: Strengthening Neighborhoods though Design, published in September and now available at the AIA Bookstore in Philly (1218 Arch St.) as well as through Distributed Art Publishers and Amazon.com.

LEVERAGE showcases 20 projects that reflect the strong work the Collaborative has done over the past two decades to help neighborhoods and organizations transform themselves in three dimensions, through planning and design services that are entirely pro bono. A series of essays offer national and local perspectives on the impact the organization has made through this good work.

The talented folks at Smyrski Creative designed the book (and check out what they’re doing at the PMA through April 22, in association with the Zoe Strauss show).

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A Match Made in Medicine

Finding a living kidney donor is a godsend for patients on dialysis. A donor who’s a match (in blood type) is even more precious. Berch Harris was fortunate enough to find both—in his wife, Vallerie Armstrong, whom he’d met at a hemodialysis center. I write about their courtship, marriage, and putting to the test the vows “in sickness and in health” in a recent issue of Surgical Solutions for the Department of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.

I was also intrigued by what transplant surgeon Dr. Ramirez explained as the intricate logistics involved  in matching donors with recipients, especially if a patient’s loved one is willing to donate, but is not a match; it turns out that, since he/she could be a match for someone else, this could guarantee a kidney that is a match, and circumvent what could be a long wait on the transplant list. Jefferson is now part of an elaborate national network that orchestrates “paired kidney donation.” This can involved multiple pairs, and requires many operating rooms and organs transported—all of which needs to happen within a matter of hours.

At a time when it seems we’re scrambling to repair and protect ourselves from human error on all fronts, it’s heartening to read about medicine getting it right and making all the difference in people’s lives.

Save

An ounce of prevention

This year I had the pleasure of working with Tom Burns of Urban Ventures Group, Paul Brophy, and the talented folks at NeighborhoodsNow on a unique report. They were making the case to Philadelphia City Council that now’s the time to invest in the city’s “backbone”: its vital neighborhoods—those middle-income areas that don’t always get the attention (or the resources) they deserve. And yet they constitute the city’s tax base, and are filled with devoted residents who choose to stay, send their kids to local schools, and know the people on their block.

It turns out there’s a precedent for smart city planning that, rather than just throwing money at the blight, invests modestly in neighborhoods that are currently stable, but right on the edge of being at risk. This sures up these areas, insulates them from the possibility of deterioration and decay in future decades. Don’t we wish we’d made a small investment years ago that could have helped stabilize the neighborhoods in Philly that now most need our help?

Mayor Nutter spoke at the Girard College event when the report was presented back in March, and on the way there I was struck by that beautiful campus and all that surrounded it. What will the decisions made now, in the wake of the financial crisis, mean for how the city looks in 10, 20, 50 years? This report, which I edited, takes a good hard look. It was an honor to help get the message out.

The Hard Work of Being Doggedly Creative

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has been a client for several years, and whenever I’m there I swoon over the collection but also find myself envying the arts students who are talented and passionate enough to attend this prestigious art school.

I just finished work on a brochure about one of PAFA’s most unique programs: the Post Baccalaureate, which provides an intensive year with four dedicated faculty members. The testimonials speak to what it means to come to a place like PAFA to devote one’s self to the hard work of being doggedly creative. And also how transformative even one year can be. I, for one, was inspired.

Scooping This American Life

This summer I had the pleasure of interviewing a world-renowned classical composer who is working on a way to kill cancer cells using sound waves. (Think opera singer who can shatter glass with her voice.) He did a mini-sabbatical at Jefferson’s Department of Surgery in July, and got some promising results. Imagine a side-effect-free treatment that can be dispensed to a room full of patients for just a few pennies’ worth of electricity.

A documentarian has been following Dr. Holland for months, and collecting video diary entries, in the hopes that this research will cross over from promising into ground-breaking. (My sources tell me that he’s also pitching the story to This American Life.) Be one of the first to read about this true Renaissance man. Read the full article here or the PDF version here.

Holland profile

A little backstory: Dr. Holland came to Jefferson because of happenstance. Dr. Jonathan Brody, of Jefferson’s Division of Surgical Research, gave a talk last year at Skidmore, his alma mater, where Dr. Holland has taught for 27 years. (Turns out Dr. Brody is quite the Renaissance man himself, and a classically trained percussionist.) Dr. Holland attended Dr. Brody’s talk, and approached his former student about what he’d been “playing around with” in the biology labs. And a research partnership was born. Stories of how great partnerships come about have always intrigued me, and I love the role of classical music in this one.

Helping Philly’s NeighborhoodsNow

NeighborhoodsNow is a Philadelphia non-profit that strives to ensure that all of the city’s neighborhoods remain vital and economically competitive. They needed a brochure that provided an overview of their three primary initiatives, including outcomes to date. They started with a draft, but needed the information to be readily accessible to prospective partners and funders, so that their goals, priorities, and successes would make an impact. And they didn’t have a lot of time.

NeighborhoodsNow bro cover

ARC started with feedback from the executive director, Beverly Coleman, about what she liked and didn’t like about the current draft. We then did a rewrite to break down the considerable amount of information into digestible chunks that would work with the evolving design. We incorporated strong headlines, bulleted lists, and lots of action words to reflect the high level of energy that is inherent to these programs. The manuscript was 1,250 words (about 7 pages), and ARC turned around the rewrite in a matter of days.

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