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Mural Fest and Mural Workshops

September 3, 2017 by pegjohnston


The Department of Public Art (DPA) will sponsor the 4th Mural Fest at Floral Ave. Park in Johnson City on Saturday October 7th from 11-4 pm. The Village of Johnson City has given permission to paint murals on several structures at Floral Ave. Park and there will be several activities for children and adults. "Leaving behind permanent murals is important," said Peg Johnston of DPA, "and just as important is engaging people in the process of creating art in public places.”

Live painting of murals is an important feature of Mural Fest and this year master muralist Susan Champeny will teach mural planning and painting Oct. 1st from 12-4 pm. Champeny is a professional muralist and creates murals, mosaics, and sculptures from recycled materials. She completed a 3 sided mural called “Goin’ Fishing” on Jarvis St. in Binghamton in 2015, as well as a mural on cloth at Mural Fest 2016. Susan will be painting two murals at Floral Ave. Park this year and will teach people who want to paint with her all week long (times TBA). Bruce Grieg, a New Zealand artist who lives and paints in this area, will paint one side of the handball court. He is responsible for many of the local murals including Mohammed Ali and several murals in the Water St. Parking Ramp. The other half of the handball court will be painted by Judy Salton, local artist at the Cooperative Gallery, with an abstract theme. Both designs will attract selfies with their novel perspectives. Shawna Stevenson, an illustration major at Syracuse University, has designed a Flower Mural that she is painting with the help of BOCES Students.

This year Mural Fest will offer even more community engagement with art, guided by local artists. This year DPA will sponsor a mural workshop starting Sunday Oct. 1st and continuing through Mural Fest Oct. 7th for community members. The workshop will show participants how to plan a mural, including gridding the design, prepping the space, and then painting it throughout the week and finishing 5 murals at Mural Fest. Another workshop, led by Stephen Schweitzer will teach people how to use camera phones to document community events, also starting on Oct. 1st, 12-4. Children will have an entire Box City to paint and decorate as well as cardboard animals, and mask making for small children to paint and play with. All workshops are free.

Similarly, DPA is partnering with Southern Tier Solar Works to create solar lanterns for neighbors: At Mural Fest children and adults can build their own solar lantern.

To VOLUNTEER to paint or to help with children's activities sign in here.

Mural Fest has received support from Chenango Co Arts Council (DEC NYS Council on the Arts) and the Hoyt Foundation, Broome County Tourism Grant, Town of Union Community Development, Golden Paints, PPG Paints, Daniel’s Paints, and other sponsors as well as a Go Fund Me fundraising campaign (  .





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7 Democrats. 7 Republicans. One Room

August 28, 2017 by pegjohnston

?Summary of the Better Angels Gathering, Saturday, July 15th in Ithaca, NY.
by Dana LaCroix

On a sunny Saturday in Ithaca a group of 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans came together for a day, pulling their political opinions off the internet or out of the closet to engage in face-to-face conversation. The session was led by Better Angels moderators Bill Doherty, David Blankenhorn and David Lapp.

I think it’s fair to say that we were all a little trepidatious in the beginning and uncertain of what to expect but it was equally clear that we were all united in our desire to communicate.

We spent the next 8 hours engaged in what was essentially a communication workshop. The structured conversation and small group exercises were peppered with coffee, lunch and snack breaks which gave us an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations and get to know each other on a more personal level.

In this day and age where the cult of opinion seems to reign supreme participants were asked to listen. Just listen. Not “listen until you hear what you want to say”, but “listen to understand”. I have little doubt that every person in the room heard opinions expressed that made them bite their tongues but it was an excellent, refreshing exercise in putting one’s self aside and exploring empathy and understanding.

After breaking into two small mixed groups of conservatives and liberals in which we shared opinions and respectfully questioned each other (“no ‘gotcha’ questions, instructed Doherty) we convened again as a large group to discuss what we had learned. One of the Republican participants said something I found interesting and strangely heartening. He said he felt that our differences as conservatives and liberals went so deep that he was convinced there are many things we will never, ever be able to agree upon. There was a general nodding of heads and a mood of assent on both sides but no palpable animosity. This reaction was clearly familiar to Doherty, who suggested that we had managed to “sharpen” our differences and that it was not a bad thing. A well-functioning Democracy depends upon the ability of its citizens to hear someone else’s point of view, dissect it, consider it, disagree with it vehemently and still see the person expressing it as a human being worthy of respect.

When we split into homogenous groups to come up with a list of prejudices that we felt the other group held about us it interested me to see how many of the misconceptions or prejudices on both sides were connected not to policy but to feelings.  Democrats believed Republicans felt that Democrats don't care about the Midwestern states. Republicans felt Democrats believed that Republicans don't care about poor people. And on it went. What we found at the end of the exercise was that neither side was made up of ‘good people who care versus bad people who don’t’, but that we were a group of Americans who sit on opposite sides of the debate on how problems are best solved. If we can take as a starting point the assumption that we all – red, blue, conservative, liberal, progressive, independent - come from a place of caring about our fellow citizens and that our differences lie in the policies we believe will achieve positive results for all, I think the conversation would be more fruitful and less vitriolic.

Fringe groups that perpetrate and encourage acts of violence aside, I came away from the gathering with a renewed belief that most Americans want to find effective, humane solutions to solving the challenges we face as a country. That was certainly what I experienced through the social microcosm of the better Angels Workshop.

English Country Dance Lessons

August 9, 2017 by pegjohnston

The Binghamton Country Dancers present a series of nine fall English Country Dance Classes from September 20 through November 15 at Christ Church, corner of Washington and Henry streets, Binghamton, 7:30-9:30 p.m.  All dances taught by Terry Glasspool, Lynn Swain, Jennifer Fuller; live music by Brandywine and the Playford Gang. Newcomers welcome. No partner needed. Bring clean shoes and a snack to share. $25 for the series, payable at the first class. Try the first class free!

What is English Country Dancing? If you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Emma, you are already familiar with it!

While this traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and evolved into square and contra dancing, it still thrives today in its own right. English Country Dancing (ECD) is done all over the US, Canada, England and on the Continent.

Some love ECD for the beautiful tunes that make the heart swell. Some come from old ballads and satires, others come from classical music and opera. This gives ECD tremendous variety, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes melancholy, sometimes driven with a pulsating beat. At times, dancers are simply swept away as they become one with the music.

For more information, contact Lee Shepherd at 722-9327 or

Re-Thinking High School

July 22, 2017 by pegjohnston

“When you think about it, we’ve gone from the Model T to the Tesla, from the switchboard to the iPhone. But high school has stayed the same.”

Union-Endicott's Tiger Ventures program which is an alternative high school in the Linnaeus West school was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from XQ America Rethinking High School. XQ helps public high schools across the United States create innovative programs that engage students in creative projects, team building, and interactive learning. The XQ Super School Bus is on tour and visited the district Saturday with a bus filled with facts about American education. On their site they argue, "IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is important. It measures how we process information. But it isn’t everything.In fact, the latest science shows that intelligence is not fixed and that there’s a lot more to a person’s capability than what can be measured in an IQ test. What also matters is a person’s EQ (Emotional Quotient)—the ability to relate to others, understand emotional cues and collaborate.But today, neither IQ nor EQ is enough. There’s a certain something, something we call XQ, that’s essential for success in the new era we’re entering."

The Super School bus facts reveal that while American elementary schools perform well compared to other countries, the US falls behind dramatically at the high school stage. XQ also challenges the notion that every student can get an education and prepare people for college, noting that some schools don't even offer basic subjects like biology, chemistry, calculus and others. In an attempt to re-define high school they have funded 10 schools and have recently funded 8 more, one of which is the UE school.

The Tiger Ventures Project at UE has been in existence for one year and serves young people who can benefit from learning differently. For instance, it has a Maker's Space in the school and art programs and communications equipment for TV/video production. Students can apply or get referred into the program. The project competed for the first round of funding and ranked in the top 50 but did not win. However, they founded the program anyway, and were surprised when they got the call that their efforts were noticed and they were being awarded 2.5 million dollars.

For a video and more information about the project visit

One America Seeks Trump Supporters

July 1, 2017 by pegjohnston

Better Angels Project seeks Trump Supporters for ‘One America’ Gathering

When: July 14 - 16
Where: Coddington Rd. Community Center, Ithaca, NY

Dana LaCroix - or 607-238-7279

The Better Angels organization ( is currently seeking Trump supporters to join non-Trump supporters for a weekend of facilitated conversation, refreshments, music and fellowship as part of its ‘One America’ National Bus Tour. The project, which will take place in Ithaca (venue TBA) the weekend of Friday, July 14 – Saturday, July 16, seeks to help bridge the divide between citizens on the political left and right.

“It is necessary that we have an equal number of ‘red’ Americans and ‘blue’ Americans participate in the gathering and so far our ‘blue’ numbers are too high.” said Dana LaCroix, one of the project’s organizers. “In our efforts to reach out to Donald Trump supporters we’ve found that many are reluctant to participate for fear of being attacked or criticized for their views. But the goal of the One America workshop is that everyone who attends should leave the workshop feeling they’ve been heard, regardless of what their standpoint on any issue may be. We are interested in conversation, not conversion,” said LaCroix.

Keith Johnson, a Republican voter and Trump supporter who participated in the One America workshop in Southwestern Ohio said, “If you did 20,000 of these across the nation, you would change the world… because people are talking to people!”

The goals of the project according to the Better Angels organization are “to better understand the experiences, feelings, and beliefs of those on the other side of the political divide; to see if there are areas of commonality in addition to differences; and learning something that might be helpful to others in our community and the nation.”
The workshop is organized by area residents and moderated by David Blankenhorn, president of Better Angels, and Bill Doherty, senior fellow with Better Angels and family therapist and professor at the University of Minnesota. The weekend will end with a pot-luck dinner and live music. Participants will receive modest compensation as a thank you for their time.

Interested individuals please contact Dana LaCroix at or 607-238-7279.

Update: Tarik Abdelazim announces for Binghamton Mayor

June 11, 2017 by pegjohnston

Tarik Abdelazim has officially announced as a candidate for Binghamton Mayor. In announcing at Sunflower Park in the First Ward, Abdelazim said, "

My work has brought me to communities all across the country that struggle with the same problems we face here in Binghamton: factories closed and jobs gone; empty grocery stores and vacant homes dragging down our neighborhoods; working families and seniors struggling to get by; an epidemic of addiction; too many youth lost to gangs, drugs, and crime....

CLIMATE MAYORS commit to Paris Agreement

June 9, 2017 by pegjohnston

285 US Climate Mayors commit to adopt, honor and uphold Paris Climate Agreement goals


The President’s denial of global warming is getting a cold reception from America’s cities.

As 285 US Mayors representing 60 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.

We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.

The world cannot wait — and neither will we.

Among the 285 is:

Mayor Richard C David
City of Binghamton, NY



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