Posted: 04/23/2014 5:33 pm EDT 


Last February, a short time after I traded New England winter for Los Angeles winter, I responded to a posting by Trade School LA (TSLA) seeking teachers willing to offer classes for barter by offering to teach a writing workshop on Flash Fiction. Trade School LA is part of an international network of 50 self-organized barter for knowledge chapters. But I didn't really get it until I spoke with Leanne Pedante who started LA's Trade School chapter and organized May's inaugural slate of classes.

Leanne explained to me that TSLA teachers offer classes in exchange for one of their list of barter items. Students sign up for classes and pick one of the barter requests to bring to the class. Even over the phone, I found Leanne's conviction that TSLA would fill a void for the many adults eager to learn new things without going into debt genuine. The Trade School community, she pointed out, is part of a growing barter and time-bank movement.

But it was Leanne's infectious enthusiasm for TSLA's ability to create community jumping out of my phone that made want to be a part of TSLA. Big city, small community. I've traded classes for grades at colleges and I like teaching. But the opportunity to teach as part of a community was and instant draw for me. I don't know who signed up for my class, but I know that we share the belief that community matters. To paraphrase Grace Paley, a community might not be changed by talking to one person at a time, but it can be known.

As it turned out, the hardest part for me was figuring out what to ask for in exchange for teaching my Flash Fiction writing workshop. That wasn't a surprise for family and friends who know that I don't celebrate my birthday. So I cheated. I looked at what other teachers around the globe had asked for and picked a few of theirs. The community came to my rescue!

Since TSLA doesn't own a 'school', classrooms are offered throughout the area. I get to teach at Spirit Art Studio in Silverlake. Other spaces are hosted by HM157 art collective in Lincoln Heights, Chin's Push art gallery in Highland Park, on a patio behind Kaldi Coffee in Atwater Village, in the backyard of Paniolo Productions in Palms, at the reDiscover Center in Santa Monica, in parks, and in people's home studios and living rooms.

To learn more about Trade School L.A., visit their website where you can register for classes and learn more about the Trade School model of community learning.


Follow Elan Barnehama on Twitter: www.twitter.com/

This Blogger's Books and Other Items from...
 
 
Picture
Posted: 04/15/2014 5:15 pm EDT
This year for Pesach, for Passover, I find myself in Southern California for the retelling of an Exodus story that celebrates renewal, promotes the do over, praises reinvention. In my travels around the cities near dessert and along the water's edge I have found so many people who came to this land seeking those same freedom to reinvent themselves and restarts their lives.

When the Jewish people entered Egypt, they were only Jacob's family and things were good so they stayed for a while and added and multiplied. Soon, they became a people. This was followed by a series of unfortunate events caused them to cry out for a change. Exodus tells us that God offered Moses the job of getting the Jews out of Egypt. Moses was a risk taker. So much so that he declined the offer. Saying no to God didn't usually go well in the Bible, but he made it work for him. Eventually, Moses took the job and whoever was bold enough, had had enough, or was willing to risk enough, followed him out of Egypt. With the Red Sea in their rearview mirror, the journey became one of renewal and the opportunity for a Do Over. This nation of slaves wandered the desert until they became a free people.

The Angelino histories, the SoCal family stories I've heard are about a rugged, adventurous folks who were passed over elsewhere and came here to join a community of risk takers seeking to remake, to reinvent themselves. They would rather go big and fail than stay home. I am told that Los Angeles County is a place where it's okay to fail. I plan to test that assertion.

Numerous studies warn that the U.S. is trending toward becoming a risk-averse people. This is disturbing, but hardly shocking. And while I'm not sure there was ever a time in our history that this trend would not be troubling, I am certain that there could not be a worse moment for this trend to take hold. Any setting that discourages risk taking will not cultivate talent. And, the need for talent has never been greater -- that is not hyperbole, but a cry heard from every sector of society.

Rather than embrace risk, we stigmatize mistakes -- even those that were based on sound practices. Instead, we must see failure as a slice of success. We must once again embrace risk as a catalyst for innovation, insight, creative problem solving, change. And maybe even a bit of happiness. Surely we could use a bit of that right now.

Like the Jewish people who wandered the desert without a GPS, we don't ever really know where we are going till we arrive. So let's make up with risk, give it a hug, and embrace it as part of the journey. On this holiday that celebrates the journey to reinvention, I raise my glass to SoCal's default setting of risk taking.


Follow Elan Barnehama on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@elanbarnehama

This Blogger's Books and Other Items from...