The Living Library Lives On
Evolution of Life Frames: past, present, future has been Bonnie Sherk‘s ongoing project on Roosevelt Island since 1981. It just expanded its geographical range and cultural significance by being included in the prestigious “La Biennale de Venezia”, curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Crossroads Community (the farm), 1974-80, which is featured in my book, TO LIFE!, shared this honor. It was included in Sherk’s biennial installation.
This presentation confirms that A Living Library is being adopted by, and adapted to, diverse communities. Its malleability in accommodating local resources and cultural conditions is formalized in the title of each new park is established. They are known as ‘Branch’ Living Library & Think Parks. But Sherk is equally committed to crafting the project as a global initiative. This, she manifests, by the linking the parks. This networks is known as Green-Powered Digital Gateways. Shrek explains that this local/global complementarity was cultivated”…so we can learn from, and share, our cultures and ecologies – near and far.”
Living Library Nature Walk links schools, parks, public housing, streets, and other open spaces. In San Francisco, this walk progresses along a series of native landscapes with interpretive signage, and terminates in a creek that is currently hidden under urban structures.This forty-year old project is currently being expanded to connect eleven communities, and transform two currently derelict and flooding freeway interchanges into Northern and Southern Gateways to the Watershed.
This inclusiveness may explain Sherk’s multi-decade commitment to this project. She comments, “Everyone and everything on Earth and in Space is part of A Living Library of diversity: people, birds, trees, air, water, and all the things we create, such as – parks, gardens, schools, curricula, artworks, networks, communities, celebrations. A Living Library, or, A.L.L., for short, provides a way to understand that culture and technology are part of nature. …..The project integrates local resources – past, present, future – and transforms them with community, to become vibrant, content-rich, art-filled, ecological learning landscapes; each Branch linked to another.”
Her plan called for bringing libraries outside where they would become Gardens Of Knowledge arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. Sherk’s uplifting vision of vibrant and harmonious intersections between cultural and ecological systems in the midst of harsh urban landscapes worldwide is becoming a thriving reality. The value this art practice has accrued value along is measured in a multitude of non-monetary terms – community, commitment, joy, and awareness.