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Learn sustainability skills at Socrates Scultpure Park

by Kori Tuitt

The Socrates Sculputure Park in Astoria is hosting a series of sustainability workshops that are as unique as the park itself. With choices from soap making to raising chickens, you are bound to find something that interests you.

The park will be hosting 10 workshops for adults, dubbing the series “Socrates Academy: Skills for Resourceful City Living.” They began this weekend and will be held every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, through June 26. The workshops will teach sustainable skills such as urban composting, container gardening, candle making, pickling vegetables, soap making, building with reclaimed wood, cooking with fire, fising, raising chickens and felt making. These hands-on educational workshops are meant to tailor the practice of sustainability to the lives of urban residents.

“We wanted to develop a program that provides hands-on knowledge to bring home,” said Shaun Leonardo, director of public programs and community relations at Socrates Sculpture Park.

Tara Sansone, the park’s director of education and community relations, and Alyson Baker, the executive director, curated the ideas for the workshop.

Although the names of some of these workshops seem kid-friendly enough, they were designed more specifically for an adult audience. For example, the felt-making workshop is very intricate, according to Leonardo..

Providing sustainable skills is the purpose of these workshops, so why might chicken raising in an urban environment be included in the workshops? According to Leonardo, staff members of the park believe that chicken raising along with other skills will become essential in the near future for urban residents. 

Artist Tattfoo Tan will be providing the tips and know-how on raising chickens in an urban environment and there will be chickens on site. Tan’s naturalistic artwork has been displayed at at the Queens Museum of Art, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Pratt Institute, among others.

Socrates also offers Saturday workshops, which are designed for children. These family-oriented workshops will run from May 7 to Sept. 24. Most of these workshops are on the artistic side, such as paper-making and painting, rather than being skills-based. But some of the workshops, such as one on building with reclaimed wood, share their subject matter with the Socrates Academy offerings.

“The workshops have an arts-based curriculum but include a wide variety of other subjects,” said Leonardo.

These workshops are free of charge and all materials are provided, which was made possible by sponsorship from Birkenstock and ReadyMade Magazine. Registration is required and space is limited, so it’s a first-come first-served basis.

The ultimate goal of the Socrates Sculpture Park is to provide both children and adults with an opportunity to gain knowledge about their environment and attain both pragmatic and fun skills to sustain themselves in an urban environment, according to Leonardo.

Socrates has long been dedicated to encouraging creative expression and environmental awareness, especially in urban areas, with a belief that “reclamation, revitalization and creative expression are essential to the survival, humanity and improvement of our urban environment,” according to its website. The park features numerous quirky sculptures and art, but it wasn’t always like this. It once was an abandoned landfill and illegal dumpsite until 1986, when Mark Di Suvero, now the president of the park, led a group of artists and community members in its transformation into a space of dual purpose, as both a park and an open studio for artists.

With 4.5 acres of waterfront land and a pleasant view of the Manhattan skyline, the park is open all year round from 10 a.m. to sunset.

The Socrates Sculpture Park is located on 31-02 Vernon Blvd. (at Broadway) in Astoria. For the full schedule of workshps or to register, visit www.socratessculpturepark.org, email info@socratessculpturepark.org or call 718-956-1819.

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