Friday, November 5, 2021

Sad News, Roosevelt Island Lost A Great Friend - Life Frames/Living Library Founder Bonnie Ora Sherk Passed Away Recently

Roosevelt Island resident Matt Katz reports the sad news that A Living Library Founder Bonnie Ora Sherk recently passed away.

According to Mr Katz:

Our friend and long-time colleague involved with the beautification of Roosevelt Island, Bonnie Ora Sherk, 

                                                                                                  Image From A Living Library

passed away in August at her home in San Francisco. While not a Roosevelt Island resident, Bonnie had a second home in Manhattan and came to us over twenty years ago on a $50,000 Ford Foundation grant. 

Bonnie was a landscape architect with credentials in San Francisco and around the world. Her early focus here was Southpoint Park which was slated for major renovations, and Bonnie's schematics for that task were printed in The Main Street WIRE March 20, 2004 issue at the time. They included plans for a boathouse and launching site for kayaks regrettably never built. The Trust for Public Land conducted its own planning at the time, which would have included a make-over of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital Ruin. RIOC rejected these innovative ideas and produced our current, modest Southpoint Park. 

Bonnie was the founder and director of Life Frames, Inc. the sponsor of A Living Library (ALL) whose mission was, "to transform derelict environments with systemically integrated hands-on learning for all ages resulting in ecological, place-based branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse parts of the world." Her work has been displayed at the P.S. 1 gallery in Queens as well as at the Biennale in Milan, Italy.  

Bonnie never received the municipal financial support in New York City that supported her projects in San Francisco, but took advantage of the RIOC Public Purpose Fund to continue creating projects, built with the sweat equity from all sectors of our population. She turned her attention to the PS/IS 217 schoolyard where both children and adults labored to haul the soil and manure necessary to transform the area under the hallway windows into a vegetable and flower garden. 

                                                                                                                 Image From A Living Library

She planted an orchard of fruit trees on the west promenade school property, tragically destroyed during major school renovations. There are still two pin oaks, planted by the school kids, across Main Street from the school entrance. 

Currently, A Living Library is represented by the garden 

located between our new library building and Blackwell Park, now under renovation. The park, under the leadership of ALL Director China Bushell, is maintained with the support of many residents, old and young, and you may have joined the Trick or Treaters at that wonderfully (gruesomely?) decorated crypt over Halloween.

Those of us who worked with Bonnie over the years miss her terribly. We know how much she loved Roosevelt Island and Roosevelt Islanders. A memorial is tentatively planned for next May, Bonnie's birthday with a plaque to be placed on one of the garden's benches and a tree planted in her name. What could be more appropriate?

Here's a 2014 interview with Bonnie Ora Sherk describing her A Living Library life long project.

EcoArt Space has more on Bonnie Ora Sherk.

Condolences to Ms Sherk's family, friends and colleagues.