Local Sphere is born! The students have come together beautifully to shape the new space at 12 S. Main Street in Phoenixville into a market of locally-produced food, arts, crafts and music, and home to the Sphere College Project. It’s hard to capture in words the feeling of community that is developing here. I think we all feel lucky to be part of something so gratifying, and we really appreciate each others’ efforts, and feel appreciated as well. It truly feels like home. Check out http://localsphere.org to see what’s going on. In the meantime, enjoy some visuals…
The Sphere College Project will be moving its classes into Local Sphere, a shop opening at 12 S. Main Street in Phoenixville. The shop will stock shelf-stable goods from local vendors in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and will have workshop/classroom space. Jesse Antonini, the store manager, will be hosting a painting party in the space starting at 1pm this Saturday, August 25. If you’re in the Phoenixville area, go join in, meet people. If you don’t want to paint, maybe bring some food or drink for those who do, or just drop in and say hello!
Here’s the link to the Facebook event: The Sphere College Project will be moving its classes into Local Sphere, a shop opening at 12 S. Main Street in Phoenixville! The shop will stock shelf-stable goods from local vendors in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and will have workshop/classroom space. Jesse Antonini, the store manager, will be hosting a painting party in the space starting at 1pm this Saturday, August 25. If you’re in the Phoenixville area, go join in, meet people. If you don’t want to paint, maybe bring some food or drink for those who do, or just drop in and say hello!
Here’s the link to the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/216482335148274/
We have exciting developing news to share. The Sphere College Project is working to open a location in downtown Phoenixville at 12 S. Main Street! In the front portion we will offer local dry goods like soaps, maple syrup products, pet foods, teas, spices, sauces, etc, and will have classroom/workshop space toward the back. This is a very new project, and is evolving each day. Here are some of the policies in its current form:
Vendors will rent shelf space to sell their products. Products must have a shelf life of at least one month. We can provide a one-month trial period during which shelf space will be provided free of cost, and we will share the profits equally with the vendor, at the end of which the vendor can decide whether to rent the space longer term. Vendors are responsible for stocking their shelf. We will maintain regular hours during times when people tend to be shopping in Phoenixville. We will provide a local delivery service within a 3 mile radius of the store. Customers can construct gift baskets filled with items from the store. Shelf space will be rented out to the vendors on a quarterly basis, with rent due two weeks in advance. The store will be managed by an employed manager who will oversee the financial aspects and be the vendor contact for the store. Students may act as cashiers and delivery people, and perform other tasks as part of their co-op work experience.
Shelf space will be apportioned to standard vendors (non-trial-basis) on a seniority basis, with first-paid, first-served.
Additional policies are still under development. We will be distributing and collecting surveys that will allow vendors to express interest and indicate preferences about other policies. If you’re local to the greater Phoenixville area and interested in being a vendor, the survey can be found at this link. You may print it out and drop it off or send it to: Local Sphere, 12 S. Main Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460
I received an email from Stephen Walsh, who worked closely with me and the other students in the Sphere College Project back in 2009 when we began. It was a very positive email out of the blue. I shared it with some of the other students who know him and they encouraged me to create a page with some testimonials. I’ve started the page and will be adding to it from time to time. You can read what Stephen had to say here: http://spherecollege.wordpress.com/testimonials.
It is with a great sense of accomplishment—and no small relief—that I announce a major shift in the Sphere College Project. I am stepping out of the role of President and into the role of Principal Mentor and Chief Education Strategist. Virginia Stewart, a student in the Project for nearly three years, has agreed to assume the role of Interim President. This will allow me to focus on the activities that I need to focus on, and will place into the role of President someone whose skills are a much better fit for the job.
Since this is such a departure from the way institutions are typically run, it may be difficult for some people to understand how a student can also act in the position of President. But this change accomplishes two things: (1) Having been a student, Virginia has a better understanding of what we are doing than almost anyone, and she can speak eloquently and convincingly about her experience; and (2) it demonstrates an important aspect of our philosophy in which members of the administration truly see themselves as students as well. Are there any institutions in which the President is taking courses in areas that truly challenge them and that are far outside their primary area of expertise, and where administrators typically work at learning as hard as the students do? Perhaps there are, but I’m not aware of them. (I would be very interested to learn about them, though.)
So there are some important transitions happening here, and they represent a significant forward shift in our strategy for expanding our operations.
I am delighted that Virginia has agreed to take on this position, at least until we find a permanent replacement. I look forward to supporting her as she carries us to the next phase in the evolution of this project.
A Very Proud Mentor,
Oh, and please take a moment to view Virginia’s Kickstarter project that she has worked so hard to create, and pledge some amount no matter how small to help her reach her goal: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1079452190/ginnys-views-from-within
We’re proud to announce a Kickstarter project by our very own Virginia Stewart. Don’t know what Kickstarter is? Here’s a quick primer…
Kickstarter.com is a site where creative artistic-related projects like film, music, sculpture, etc can get funding from people who visit the site and pledge money to support the project. The creator of the project describes the project and chooses a target amount and an amount of time. If the project reaches its goal by the deadline selected, the creator gets the money. If it doesn’t, the credit cards do not get charged. People who pledge receive rewards for pledging at different amounts.
Now this may sound simple, and in theory it is. But it actually takes a good deal of work to get a project up and running. Virginia has been working on her project for quite some time—defining the project, writing the description, selecting the rewards, making the video describing the project, and on and on. I could describe her project, but instead, why not just click here, watch her video, find out more about the project, and pledge some amount of money to support this project and Virginia’s future endeavors? And help her spread the word by posting the link to her project on other sites!
It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be true that three whole years have passed since the first classes of then-called Sphere College met. And yet, this Friday, April 27 we will be celebrating our 3rd Anniversary with a Community Night. How can I sufficiently sum up the successes, failures, lessons, feelings and current status of what we are doing? I can’t. No way. My words cannot do it justice. But I will continually thank the many, many people who have helped this project survive this far: anyone who has attended a class; anyone who has donated time, money, expertise, facilities or any other resources to us; and anyone who has expressed support and encouragement. It has all been appreciated more than you probably know, and tangible results are beginning to emerge.
SO, as we begin tonight our 4th 5-week session of the year we invite you to join us on Friday night at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Phoenixville to celebrate with us! Come share some food, help us raise funds, purchase some artwork, play some games, and enjoy some entertainment and comedy (Frank Wolfe) and outstanding music from one of our area’s most exciting and engaging bands (Silent Reunion!!). Games are from 6-9pm and entertainment/music from 9-11, with a suggested donation of $10.
And know that visitors are always welcome to our classes. Our next 5-week session begins tonight (Monday, April 23) with a topic selected by the students, a Writing Workshop that leverages our prior studies of Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion. Classes are held on Monday nights from 7-9pm at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Church Street in Phoenixville.
There’s no doubt about it, from time to time it can be a real challenge to keep moving forward with this education project, but we keep seeing students make progress and that’s all we need to keep us doing everything we can to make it work. I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of developments.
First, Frank Wolfe continues to work on his passions of poetry, entertaining, comedy and art. His signature piece is “Love and Bagels”, which he has performed many times at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville. Well, now he’s making this piece available in a YouTube video to share with everyone. Thanks to our friend Kevin Coxe, who shot several performances and put a lot of thought and work into the editing, here’s the video for you to enjoy:
Congratulations, Frank, on completing this project!
Second, Lisa Longo recently began attending our classes. We’re currently studying Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion, and it seems to be having quite a positive affect on Lisa. You can read about it by following this link to her latest blog entry, How Rhetoric Rocked My World. It’s a real pleasure to have you in the classes, Lisa!
So it seems that the message is this: no matter how challenging things appear to be, just keep it going. There will always be things that will come along to make it all worth it!
Last night at Steel City Coffeehouse I presented the second of two Sphere Communication Workshops. It went extremely well! We had a nice crowd: some members of the Phoenixville Green Community, some musicians, some students in the Sphere College Project, and several others who heard about it and dropped in.
Most attendees were there last night because people who attended last week encouraged them to come. And last night’s attendees were sincerely enthusiastic afterward about how much it opened their eyes with respect to problems and solutions of group communication. Ultimately, that’s how I want to publicize this: word of mouth. If the quality of a product is high enough, then people WILL tell other people.
Here’s a rundown of the workshop: I briefly discuss the motivation for the workshop, then present some principles of communication that emerge from synthesizing diverse disciplines. Then there’s a break. Last night during the break the audience was entertained by Frank Wolfe, student in the Sphere College Project. After the break I solicit a group of courageous volunteers to practice their skills by discussing an engaging topic based on the principles introduced previously. Naturally, the participants are a bit self-conscious since the rest of the group is listening intently to the discussion, but by this time it isn’t too difficult for the individuals to focus on the topic while simultaneously remaining aware of the quality of their interaction.
The night was so successful that I look forward to presenting this workshop often and soon. I’m currently working on a grant to offer it to unemployed/underemployed individuals. In the meantime, if you, dear reader, can think of any groups who would like to be more effective at finding common ground through improving their communication skills (who wouldn’t?), I’d appreciate being connected with them! I can be contacted directly with an email to info AT spherecollege DOT org. The workshop is also offered through the Center for Resolutions in Media, PA. Some information about the workshop is available by following this link.
Deeply etched into the philosophy of The Sphere College Project are the convictions that all faculty, administration and staff must be engaged in their own personal pursuit of knowledge, and that experience is the best teacher. This implies that I, the president and founder, must be as willing to learn from experience as I expect the students to be.
So what have I learned? One thing is that in our current economic environment holding fundraisers and contests and asking people to contribute money and expertise is not going to sufficiently build the necessary infrastructure for us to become a stable, sustainable entity. I’ve also learned that we’re solidly on the right track. There’s no question of our giving up, even in the face of what may appear to many to be insurmountable challenges. How do I know we’re on the right track? All of my knowledge tells me the structure is right, I look at the progress currently being made by the students, and the fact that 2 1/2 years in, we’re still alive.
What has become clear to me is that we can survive and grow by offering something of value to society—something people will pay for. Virginia Stewart, for example, has been working on her artwork. She is producing new, innovative works that deliver what our lives and times need: insight into self-awareness, and surreal works of beauty that provide fertile ground for interpretation and contemplation. Frank Wolfe is writing and entertaining and producing his artwork in the form of greeting cards and a calendar for sale during the holiday season. His work provides fresh, poignant insights into what it means to be human. Virginia and Frank are both beginning to get paid for doing the work they love to do, too!
So…what do I have to offer? Well, I have developed something called the Sphere Communication Workshop. In the workshop I convey principles of communication and leverage the metaphor of roles played by musicians as they engage in creating music together. Participants in the workshop will gain an awareness of their own individual communication strengths and weaknesses, and to begin to interact more effectively with others.
I am offering these workshops at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville on two Tuesdays, October 18 and 25 from 6-8pm. Information about the workshops is available by following this link. And Fern Brodkin created this press release. I’m very excited about the workshops. They accomplish multiple goals: they are a way for us to bring in some much-needed funding, and they will also get people communicating more effectively, a critical component of a functioning society. If you are in the Phoenixville area, I hope you will consider attending one or both of these workshops. If you can’t attend, feel free to call Kim Feindt at 610-917-9797 to schedule workshops at other times. If you are not in Phoenixville, I would be delighted to visit your area to perform the workshops. Please contact me via email, richard AT spherecollege DOT org, for more information.