Villages in the Sky: DIY World Change

Just another weblog

the best part of fundraising June 21, 2010

(sara)  a couple of days ago, i was stressing out.  fundraising has been the biggest challenge for me since we started this adventure more than a year ago.  i’ve done non profit energy organizing, but never from the position of executive director and to jump straight into non profit management from scratch has been a huge growth experience.  and i relish bringing a bit of my “green-ness” to the position.

there’s no easy way to keep track of the leading projects competing for the “G4C” and i was going through project by project checking vote counts only to discover that we’d been bumped out of 5th place by a project that hadn’t previously registered in my tracking efforts and had jumped all the way to 1st place.  we need to hold onto at least 5th place to stay in the competition after july 6th.

i’ve been a lot of places in the last year, fallen in love with a lot of people as i’ve worked to hussle this festival.  and before that i was working closely with young activists across south carolina and the southeast, where i’d formed a tight kint family of climate activists defending the south against dirty energy.  it’s one of my greatest sadnesses, that i fall in love so often, form deep relationships and then move on only to lose touch because of the sheer number of people i want to hold in my life.  so when i saw that we were down in votes, i hesitated.  as a youth activist i learned to harness the power of facebook for event promotion, network strengthening, etc.  but i hadn’t been in touch in so long, and now, when i needed help i would pop back into the lives of so many of the people i’d lost touch with.

but i bit my lip, swallowed my guilt and hunkered down at my computer for a blitz of facebook wall posts to old friends.  after a couple of hours, i re-emerged from the realm of computer thin connections and hoped for the best, still feeling a little cheap.  but my friends rose to the occassion and took my breath away.  not only did we move into third place, but i’ve written a dozen love letters, reconnected with more friends, and am now making plans to see many of my southeastern family while i’m in south carolina for the next couple months.

just a part of the family i'm rediscovering

nothing about this project is normal.  and even if we don’t get the 10,000 dollar grant, this has been an exercise in reconnection and has reaffirmed my commitment to making this project happen in raucous style.  it’s not that i forget how much i love the idea of a festival that changes the world, it’s that i get so blinded by the stresses and challenges that i am not always connected to the thrill of what we’re doing.  and any project that allows me to strengthen old and new relationships under the guise of fundraising is a project i want to be a big part of.


if you haven’t voted yet, or made all of your friends vote, it’s pretty simple.  just go to: and follow the instructions for voting.  thanks so much!


April Fools Party and Progress April 4, 2010

Filed under: build up camp,Project Personalities,Salvage — villagesinthesky @ 4:56 pm
(Sara and Paxus) It is late after a long day and we are preparing to go to sleep in the back of the Subaru on the couch cushions which Deborah brought up.  She also brought up a dozen cheery East Winders for a sing along and some beers after a beautiful warm day.  We had said we wanted to have a party after our first full day of seed camp and then we kind of forgot about it.  One of the nice things about having a community as a neighbor is that you can whip up a party pretty quickly.
Today is April Fools and an appropriate start date for such an unlikely project.  And over the post couple of days a lot has come together.
  • we have nearly finished the demo of the yellow house and salvage of siding and 2 by boards (lots of de-nailing).
  • Teo built us the cutest little comptoil outhouse from a giant peanut sack
  • Jason and Shiloh banged out some nice benches (photos to come)
  • Sara and Shiloh and others completed the root cellar
  • zeke brought in some shelving for the kitchen
  • Ish and Matthew put a bunch of rocks in the potholes, which desperately needed attention.
Pilgrim and Paxus discussed volunteers and how to keep them happy.  Pilgrim wanted them to be on the site during the daylight hours and taking off to the river or other events after the day was over.  Paxus took a more summer camp perspective, thinking that volunteers needed to be happy and able to run off to adventures during the day some days.
We will fight and we will discuss and we will make sure that we’re creating an experience that is the best parts of work on a short timeline and play on a big scale.  That’s what we’re all about.  And we’ll take care of each other.  It’s a culture more than a festival, that we’re creating, and if we can’t go swimming at the end of the day, in the middle of the day, at the beginning of the day, then what’s the point?
Yellow House Frame
Yellow House Gone

Is tucker with y’all? March 14, 2010

Filed under: Fundraising,Project Personalities — Sara Tansey @ 1:51 pm

(Sara)  Wow.  It’s been a bit of a whirlwind in the last couple of weeks.  Last Saturday we had a birthday and a board meeting: Paxus’s birthday and a VIS board meeting in DC.  Now, I’ve been to a number of board meetings and even organized and facilitated a few in my short time, but never one quite like last weekend’s.

Arrow, one of our festival experienced board members, brought along his wife Teagan (who we love and are happy to have as an extra, unofficial board member), his 13yr old daughter Felix, his baby daughter Teah and their dog Tucker.  And they all came to the meeting.  And it was wonderful.

I think it was when Teagan walked back into the meeting room and asked if Tucker was with us and I had to tell her that Pax had taken him for a quick walk, because he seemed to need it, that I remembered how unconventional and delightful this project is.  There were times in the meeting when Pax had to take over, because I was distracted by baby Teah, or moments when Felix jumped in to keep notes or get us back on track.  Moments that fit into the flow of the meeting so well, that didn’t distract from the very important things we were discussing, but added and enriched our discussion and decision making.

We talked for hours about fundraising and networking and priorities for the next couple of months.  Everyone was engaged, excited, contributing in critical ways and the momentum it has catalysed is much appreciated.  And we finished the board meeting with a chaotic dinner hosted by Heather, another board member, at her house blocks from our meeting site.  She’d invited friends interested in the project, Arrow and Teagan had invited members from a local intentional community and other board members invited local friends and allies.  And outside of a quick blurb about the project and some questions, we let the night unfold organically.  The kids from the closeby community delighted in the swing hanging in Heather’s living room, allies and close friends mingled to discover new friendships and exchange phone numbers, the rooms were packed full of bodies and noise and it was the perfect opportunity to connect, relax and celebrate the different ways we’re all working towards this new world we’re building.

My favorite moment was a conversation between Tim and Res, a conversation about how to design functioning wooden gears for turbines and such.  I was trying to follow but at one point they exchanged few words and most of the verbal communication became unnecessary because they knew what the other was thinking.  It was sort of like watching a tennis match between two incredible minds.

And now I’m back at East Wind for less than twenty four hours and already I’ve been in three meetings of varying formality to discuss different pieces of the project.  And tomorrow is our big vote here on the lease and proposed terms of agreement.  Things aren’t slowing down and won’t until after the festival.  And we still need a ton of people to manifest this madness.  So find us, write us, let us know how you want to get involved.  If nothing else, it’s a wonderful ride!


Board Gift March 6, 2010

Filed under: Fundraising,Project Personalities — paxus @ 6:00 pm

Arrow just gave us the solar panels which has been used for Biotour and his old offices in Manhatten.

A wild man kicks in to the cause


They might be Architects* March 2, 2010

Filed under: build up camp,Project Personalities — paxus @ 5:49 am

(paxus) It was my mother who suggested i contact Al Ross from the architects firm of Flansburgh Associates, which is the firm my father founded.  Al built a tree house in his back yard and perhaps more significantly, also built a mock pirate ship by cleverly twisting plywood.  Al agreed to consult with us for the cost of a couple of airplane tickets to Missouri which the project was more than happy to pay for.

Sara hates possed pictures, so the above one with Al and Joe Marshell (also from Flansburgh Associates) myself and Sara is not quite as bad as the team shot which wont make it to the website, but is in Will’s Photos. he architects were generous with their time and clever with their advice.  We will have some of their drawings up in a few days, but for me the interesting thing abou their approach was they moved away from rectangular elements (which dominate the Acorn tree houses) and have shifted to triangles. Including a set of triangles which goes up to the main elevated dance floor.  The early computer aided drawings were light in design and took full advantage ofthe billboard tarps we are planning ot use as roofing.  We asked them to come up with stuff which was visually dramatic so that participants of the event would feel like they are part of something extraordinary.  They have succeeded famously.  My dad would be proud.

* My brother is in a rock band called “They Might be Giants”, when my fathers architectural firm was changing it’s name after he departed the firm there was a brain storming session on what the new name might be.  One name that never had a serious chance, but was my favorite as “They might be architects”


And the good news is… January 27, 2010

Filed under: build up camp,Fundraising,Project Personalities — paxus @ 4:53 am

That my boys are taking care of me, too.  I always say that one of my favorite parts of this project is getting to play with “the boys.”  They are wonderful.  Real boys, you know, work hard, play hard, build things with their hands and all of them are a couple of decades older than me.  We decided months ago that I’m the little sister who’s had to assume all maternal responsibilities because our mother is in rehab.  And trust me, it explains a lot about “the boys” and our unique relationship.

Tonight I got a call in the middle of a Smash Brothers tournament from Pilgrim—our site manager and tree house building master.  We’d been sifting through community politics together earlier in the night and I’d shown signs of mild exasperation (ok, maybe more than mild).  He was calling me with “not great news, but good.”  He’d been talking to one of the East Wind “boys,” Kris, who is a local expert in steam engines.  All along we’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate steam into the project; Kris refuses to use steam for electricity, too inefficient, but tonight he agreed to put together a steam exhibit for the festival.  He also provided us with a much cheaper solution to energy generation out on the site during build up camp by offering a diesel engine we can convert—all we need is a battery.

Some of the other good news is that East Wind might have two starter solar panels we can use on the site, every day we’re finding another potential long term VIS volunteer to come out in February to help with our massive site preparation, and we had a really great development and fundraising call today.

“I wanted to call and give you some good news, some hope.  Something good right before you go to bed,” Pilgrim told me.  And as we wished each other sweet dreams and hung up I was close to tears.  This is a big project and wading through community politics, trying to raise money, trying to keep everyone happy and trying to find enough volunteer help for Pilgrim himself is a bit crazy making.  And sometimes I feel like I’m doing it all alone out here.  But that’s just the egomaniac in me, and the team I’m working with reminds me in the simplest and most profound ways that we are a strong team.  It seems almost impossible, but with this group of misfit toys, I know we can make almost anything happen.  Prove me wrong, come and join us in June and tell me we’ve failed.  I dare you!