I live and work ten blocks from New York City’s famed Union Square Green Market but somehow only visit a few times a year.
I could blame looming deadlines, unanswered email and the myriad of volunteer duties at my sons’ school (every year I vow not to sign up for any more committees and then break my pledge by the second week). But none of these excuses hold up when I consider the amount of time I spend each day on social media, news sites and blogs. Certainly I can find an hour a week to do something that is both personally enjoyable and supports the local farming community?
Last Wednesday provided me with the opportunity. I had a break between client meetings and instead of doing what I would normally do—check Facebook and Twitter and CNN and the NY Times or simply do the dishes from breakfast—I went to market.
The vegetables greeted me in all their fantastic shapes and irregular sizes, showing off like an array of supermodels; Gisele Bündchens and Kate Mossess and Miranda Kerrs in sweet potato and radish and pepper form.
A woman from a lavender stand was handing out bits of dried lavender and it filled the air with the scent of what I imagine Provence smells like. Right here in NYC a little piece of Southern France. I took a deep, deep breath.
Then I met the cutest little girl with black braids and big eyes who told me: “I just love vegetables. Aren’t those carrots beeeeeyouteeefull?” I told her I loved vegetables too.
“He doesn’t like vegetables,” she said pointing at her three-year old brother. Her mother, tall and regal, eyed me suspiciously as she paid for her lettuce and carrots and potatoes with food stamps and shuttled the children along.
In my vegetable reverie, I bought some apples, baby carrots, sweet potatoes, an carton full of brightly colored peppers for pickling, squash, kale and the most amazing green cauliflower. Then lettuce and ground turkey.
This trip reminded me of something essential—like most Americans I want to work to live, not live to work. What I love most about NYC is not to be found sitting in my office, or on social media or some news source, but in the crowds, the streets and the outdoor markets. I am fed creatively by going out and experiencing life—and this inspires the work I do for clients and leadership that I bring to my students.
As someone who has created and studied digital culture for almost twenty years, it goes without saying that I am a fan of social media and the interactive world. But when the balance is off, when I spend all day at the computer and not enough time outside, somehow I feel unconnected from what is essential.
Last year I was part of a team that put together a fundraising campaign at my sons’ school. The work was submitted and we won A Davey Award for a non-profit multimedia campaign. I love when my creative work is used for good—and it’s recognized.
Here is an example of the work we did:
Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO hit series Girls, recently signed 3.5 million dollar book contact for a memoir. When published, Dunham’s book will share shelf space with bestsellers like Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir and Heather McDonald’s My Inapropriate Life: Some Material Not Suitable For Small Children, Nuns Or Mature Adults. Part humor, part memoir, books in this category are almost always written by women and openly explore sex, drinking and even mental illness in a brazen and unrepentant manner. And readers, especially those that are not offended easily, are snapping them up.
I love when activists use creativity to sell their message, rather than relying on outdated notions of enlightenment ideology to affect chance. We’ve known for decades that the truth will not set us free—and that people make decisions based on both the rational and irrational. And yet, we still get campaigns that focus on the negative, are boring and easily ignored in a sea of countless messages.
Folks like the artist Khaled Jarrar, who created an exhibit space at the Berlin Biennale’s where he stamped visitor’s passports with a specially-designed ‘visa’ for the State of Palestine. The stamp he created featured a Palestine Sunbird surrounded by flowers and encircled with the words State of Palestine in English and Arabic. And it essentially meant nothing—except that it beautifully and symbolically told the story of Israel Occupation of the Palestinian Homeland.
I especially love it when it involves my husband, the activist and media studies professor Stephen Duncombe. Along with The Yes Men labs, his organization The Center for Artistic Activism has launched actipedia.org, a hub for people who use interesting, playful and artist strategies to help build a more just society. People like Jarrar and others can share ideas and document what they are doing, in an age where few mainstream media outlets cover this type of work.
I produced a piece on actipedia for Word of Mouth. Listen.
Last month a gave a talk at the Copy Lab, which is a creative collective for copywriters. (I am thrilled that Kim and Kelley started it—NYC writers need an association in order to learn new skills and advocate for our profession.) For my event, I focussed on tools and tips for creating content for web sites, social media and digital devices. Read a summary of the talk on The Copy Lab Blog.
Also, be sure to check out the Copy Lab. They have lots of great events coming up.
In my copywriting for the web course, I cover banner ads. Bannerblogs.com/au is the source that I use to show interesting work. However, when I tried to find live examples of old-school rotating banners, I came up empty-handed. Now, I am sure they still exist—but they are certainly not as ubiquitous as they once were.
But really. Who ever like banner ads anyways? It was a print/TV approach to interactive marketing that never quite worked.
What this means: the industry is finally getting smarter about engaging people in meaningful conversations via social media. I can already imagine a time when we will say: remember when we had to create all those endless banner ads?
Radio is one my passions. I love how intimate it is to listen—and how the absence of images allows for a different kind of storytelling. So when I was thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions this year, I placed pitching more radio segments at the top of my list.
Witness this segment on Feminist Boot Camp for public radio’s Word of Mouth.
I recently worked on a fundraising campaign for my children’s school, PS3 in NYC’s West Village. The creative team had one week to come up with a series of posters for The 3Fund, our annual fundraising effort which significantly supplements the school’s budget and allows for a rich arts-based education. Due to time constraints, photography was not an option.
The result? Text-based posters that playfully called out the very items the 3Fund pays for—and touched upon the community aspect of the PS3’s educational philosophy. The posters, placed throughout the school, helped raise money, and had the added bonus of increased parent involvement—from volunteering at lunch to school leadership positions.
Funny how much I love the pro-bono work that I take on.
(Click on images for larger versions.)