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Ashkenaz: Interpretive Projects

Through the themes of music, education, community and history of political activism, this plan is aimed towards improving sustainability and outreach to all types of visitors and stakeholders, whether they are longtime supporters or visiting for the very first time. Ashkenaz already has a firm hold on plans for the future and enables visitors to interact through music and dance from cultures around the world incorporating these themes. But there are more opportunities to upgrade conservation efforts and to draw new people in and keep them coming back, lengthening the viability of the establishment and the heritage it shares.

Music Education

It’s the music!

The music is what keeps everything afloat and the dancing afoot. People from far and wide who recognize Ashkenaz as “home” are coming for its yard stompin’ roots revival, whether it be local music fans and dancers or the travelling musicians themselves. Though home is also the backbone to a family when the hard times hit, so it is home where world music can still exist. If it were not for venues likeGrateful Dead art on adjacent building Ashkenaz that celebrate the people’s music, the symbolic art to whom the music represents would not reach to inspire the desperate souls of either folk or kin. But being a home means to those that other places are not home, by definition, so Ashkenaz must embrace its role to educate and distribute notes for a cooperative musical compilation.

Nothing screams music history like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; in fact, they are the leading pioneers for music education in the digital age, bringing in a new concept called the digital classroom. Upon clicking open the digital classroom doors it becomes apparent that teachers are encouraged to share the information, as noticeable by the infographics and explicit texts to save the pictures for lesson plans.

135db3Users navigate through music genres and are brought into a list of monthly musicians within that genre. From there, after selecting a specific musician group, the user can play music recordings of popular songs and/or have a chance to see a music tutorial about their specific notation. Inside each musician group’s page provides a detailed bio and a lesson plan of objectives. The user interacts with these objectives in a visual-auditory combination to become more familiar and intimate with musicians for an appreciation of their uniqueness they bring.

The implications of appearing more transparent about music education affords Ashkenaz more web traffic in which internet surfers would be continually redrawn back into their website for information regarding the next month’s artist lineup, since those lineups would be organized
into music education classroom objectives. Teachers of all grade levels will be on the lookout especially, and depending on popularity Ashkenaz may even get more international recognition. In this cause for music education and online availability, Ashkenaz can pair up with other organizations worldwide to create a digital folk music classroom. Taking cue from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, these digital classrooms may involve video conferencing special events to further open the availability of folk music back to its origins in which physical distance is the only obstacle of reaching larger audiences.

Self-Guided Audio Tour

Ashkenaz does an excellent job of sharing cultural diversity through a variety of experiences, but slightly hidden behind the main focus is the heritage of Ashkenaz itself, which lies in its inception and legacy. Although it is spilling over with symbols of this, the meaning may not be apparent to all. This tour allows people to experience the richness of the place in addition to the culture it encourages. The focus incorporates music, but showcases the other themes of education, community and history of political activism.   

Exterior looking across San Pablo.

Beginning the tour outside shows how the building was remodeled based on synagogues in Europe so the founder, David Nadel, could show his connection to his Jewish ancestry. The name “Ashkenaz” has the same origin and visitors are able to read David’s handwritten notes about this as they enter the building.

Moving into the venue guests experience the energy and passion behind the political activism in Berkeley during the 1970s, following David’s journey promoting peace and human rights. The original protest posters covering the walls recall many events, including his tireless presence in People’s Park advocating for the homeless. These actions in the name of peace resulted in multiple arrests and a lawsuit filed against him by the University of California. But they also resulted in great honors; David was gifted a flag from Cesar Chavez’s coffin and later the Cesar Chavez Legacy Award. Including background noise from protests, jail doors slamming shut, or hammering of judges’ gavels all help visitors grasp the power of these moments.

Throughout the tour, references showcasing impact on the community are present in the memorabilia, including documents dedicating Ashkenaz an official landmarkClose up on the Peace Wall, designating David Nadel Week and multiple magazine covers awarding Ashkenaz. Adding audio excerpts from dance classes and musicians intensify personal feelings and augment the community involvement that has always occurred here.

Beyond the main room, visitors may enter the band room if it is open to explore photographs and personal marks left by countless musicians. As they loop back, guests learn the dance floor is made of discarded pencils from a local lumber company and multiple gifts from artists show sentiments from the community. Heading towards the exit, the café provides food and drinks. The menu is always vegetarian, but everyone should be warned the culturally diverse homemade cuisine changes frequently.

Caution is advised in mentioning David’s death; visitors must be assured safety but also informed of this important moment. Overall, an interactive self-guided audio tour enhances experiences by educating history, political activism, and community involvement through our five senses. Additional visitation to the café will increase income as will the purchase of the tour, likely paying for itself at a download cost of one dollar. It affords Ashkenaz a wider audience, offering a multi-sensorial experience to those who may not want to dance and appealing to those intrigued by history. Finally, this tour should be offered as a simple audio file, requiring no specific device, making it more appealing to audiences not savvy with technology.

Community Pin Board

As a result of Ashkenaz’s drive for cultural variation and a sense of community, the venue has become popular with people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. In order to further their efforts in community development and education, a large pin board wall inside the venue would give space for the visitors to express their insight, memories and stories of their time at Ashkenaz with each other and the staff.Community board

Behind the main stage there is a hallway lined with old newspaper articles and maps, a space which could also incorporate an interactive installation in the form of a community memory pin board. Large panels of thick corkboard would create an area for visitors to respond to a weekly question or prompt pinned to the top of the board to initiate discussion. Each week would provide guests the opportunity to share a new piece of information about a range of topics posed; for example, positive changes at Ashkenaz, favorite memories of events, interesting information about the guest’s culture, or what they appreciate about the community that the venue has established. A table with note cards, pens and thumbtacks placed near the couch already situated towards the back wall will allow people an opportunity to sit and be creative about their responses. By the end of each week, the community would have created a wall together filled with stories and feedback from regular and new customers, hoping that the next week’s topic may interest them enough to come back to discover what else they can contribute or read from others.

This feature may appeal especially to long time visitors who can reminisce about their memories at Ashkenaz. The power of remembering special occasions cultivates a feeling of happiness for those who have been veteran visitors. Because Ashkenaz is particularly family friendly, this pin board will also give children an expressive project to even further enhance the family atmosphere.

The wall would also serve the managers of Ashkenaz as they would have an additional way for customers to provide feedback and maybe even obtain some new ideas for how the patrons envision Ashkenaz going forward. Staff would have an opportunity to elicit feedback from their visitors on any specific topics that seem pertinent to them.

Although this installation mainly engages the visual sense, there is also a sense of touch within the active writing and drawing process, connecting visitors to their expressive sides. The project can enhance the sustainability of Ashkenaz by attracting returning customers who now have the chance to feel more involved in the location, and with this renewed sense of belonging they will be able to feel more connected to its history by learning about old memories. This perception of social inclusion would aid in bringing patrons together within the community Ashkenaz is attempting to create. The information can enable changes that would increase the number of return visitors by further catering to their interests.

Youth Involvement in Creative Games

This interpretive project focuses on activities for children who visit Ashkenaz. The venue already hosts Sunday matinees geared towards children, but thAsheba on stage with childrene creation of more pervasive and accessible games and activities would make
Ashkenaz a more enticing and accessible place
for young people in the Bay Area. These would,
out of necessity, be cost-effective and low-
maintenance to ensure sustainability, but could
still have a significant impact on children’s
cultural and affective development. This
 interpretive project encompasses all four of our
themes of education, community, political
history, and music in various and intersectional ways: Through education and music, the plan seeks to create a passionate future for stakeholders by exposing them to Ashkenaz’s political history and engaging them with its present community.

Cost is a major factor for any and all projects Ashkenaz seeks to implement; as a nonprofit, Ashkenaz depends heavily on donations, especially from well-heeled “angel benefactors” to meet its expenses. Therefore, “analog” or technology-free ways to engage and educate children are not only the most financially feasible for Ashkenaz to implement but are also most in line with its ethos of embodied community. Activity sheets—incorporating word searches, coloring pages, and games centering around the venue and its political and artistic history—are cheap to reproduce in plentiful quantities and can be displayed in easy-to-reach places. These same sheets can include instructions for scavenger hunts to acquaint children with the venue, including tasks such as counting stained glass fixtures, finding the “Tofu Records” poster, or signing the visitor pin board. These activities require a minimum of adult supervision depending on the age of the child, and very little upkeep, making them sustainable in spite of any financial or bureaucratic challenges the venue faces.

Depending on volunteer availability and willingness, more involved, structured, and supervised activities for children could take place in Ashkenaz’s back studio during performances. These activities could include dance lessons and instruction about the kinds of music played at Ashkenaz but would not necessarily have to be limited to pure didacticism; merely having local children interact within Ashkenaz—which is, after all, a community center—would foster strong bonds between local children and the venue, even if they are just playing duck-duck-goose in the back room. Walking into Ashkenaz itself, one feels transported into a different age, and these activities seek to strengthen and elaborate on that embodied sensation. Education on the venue’s historical significance provide a context into which children can situate; playing games, enjoying music, and meeting friends provides them with a present and embodied connection that will allow the continued creation of historical significance.

 

Artwork of founder David Nadel near the entrance

 

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Ashkenaz: Project Media

More goes on at Ashkenaz than we could ever show you online!

But you can get a glimpse of how Ashkenaz shares cultural heritage through music and dance by checking out these galleries of what we’ve created, compiled and collected:

 

 

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Ashkenaz: Appraisal

Plaque given to David by the City of Berkeley.Ashkenaz has stayed true to its mission since 1973; it has long held values that focus on community enrichment and has continuously promoted these core beliefs through shared cultural heritage. They have maintained their code of acceptance and peace through welcoming traditional music and dance from across the globe, welcoming all genres, from American roots to West African Kora ensembles and Persian ballet.

The management staff at Ashkenaz includes members of the local community who have been involved in the music venue since it first opened. Larry Chin – managing director and manager of Ashkenaz – has been working at the site since it first opened in the early 1970s and has witnessed the growth and changes that have occurred since. The years of experience and multiple talents of the staff means they are passionate about and understand the mission of the venue, often taking on many roles to keep the place running smoothly.

Many "Gilman District"of the threats to Ashkenaz include issues that arise with gentrification – or, commercial urbanization and subsequent demographic displacement – of the surrounding community, and an increasingly technologically driven world. Predictably, along with this increase in online interaction comes a less physically interactive community. So, inadvertently, Ashkenaz also faces the threat of missing out on new return customers whom discover music online or engage in online forums for the betterment of the community.

To attain these repeat customers who let the values live on, the management holds a policy that the space be rented out to local dance teachers during the daytime for a low affordable rate. They also offer free dance lessons before some of the live music – a policy that, coupled with low ticket prices, gives back to the community while maintaining their loyal patronage.

Moreover, Ashkenaz does not have its own parking lot though there is street parking nearby, but also actively discourages patrons from parking on the residential streets to avoid disturbing neighbors late at night. This lack of free and secure parking could serve to encourage bicycle commuting, but suffers from a lack of secure bicycle storage.

We propose the addition of more programming aimed at children, web-based resources for patrons, and an audio tour of Ashkenaz. We do not foresee the need to upgrade any of the existing infrastructure in the building except for the retrofitting that is already planned, and routine maintenance and small installations, like a community pin board for visitors to inscribe with memories.

 

 

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Ashkenaz: Background

Ashkenaz is located in West Berkeley, at 1317 San Pablo Avenue. It was initially a for-profit business in 1973, founded by David Nadel, as a place for a combination of ethnic flavors in music and dance that everyone can enjoy. Nadel envisioned Ashkenaz as a space for shared world music and dance performances that would dissolve the boundaries that keep people apart. In a word, the Jewish term “ashkenaz” symbolizes just that, and in honor of Nadel’s Ashkenazi Jewish heritage he named and remodeled an abandoned warehouse to the architecture of an Eastern European synagogue.

As volunteers joined and became part of the business’s foundation, Nadel sought after various outlets that would ultimately attract attention. The business became involved with social class and ethnic strife in pursuit of fulfilling its values. Later, Nadel relaxed on politics to focus more on community building, including building relations internationally. In 1996, Nadel was shot and killed at the front door by a man who had previously been ejected for harassing patrons. The venue closed for six months while a group of patrons purchased the building and converted into a registered nonprofit organization seeking to continue Nadel’s vision.

One of the reasons it has not only been to able continue business but also stay true to its mission, is because the board of directors consists of five volunteers, three of whom are founding members and friends of David during his life. The board makes decisions about financesPostcard showing the exterior of Ashkenaz before it was remodeled. and administration, maintenance and grant proposals, but each member also has their own specific role such as archiving or fundraising. As a nonprofit that receives government and other organizational funds, and subsequent tax exemptions, Ashkenaz does not have the same freedoms of political expression that Nadel had as a for-profit small business; now it must lean more toward education than advocation.

Nevertheless, the city of Berkeley declared Ashkenaz landmark status in 1992 and David Nadel Week in 1997. Although work has been done some considerations about the current physical condition must be met to further preserve its landmark status. Most importantly for preservation are sources of funding, so with the addition of the executive director the nonprofit should be able to concentrate more on seeking additional funding sources and promoting the services it has to offer. Moreover, the current points of interpretation are scattered and aren’t getting the recognition they deserve in terms of a diversified visitor profile.

 

 

 

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Ashkenaz: Implementation

5-Year Short Term Goals
A photo of a photo of Larry Chin at Ashkenaz in the 1970s.

#1: Preservation of tangible heritage. Scanning, archiving, and replacing original documents will preserve the historical record while still maintaining usability. Additionally, digital versions are to be organized on the Ashkenaz website.

#2: Increase marketing to reach a diverse population. Mainly, a new position opens space for a web designer internship. A modern interface and a more interactive site would likely bring in more customers who could spend time online discovering everything Ashkenaz has to offer. This person would be responsible for linking social media news feeds to the website, frequently updating media sites with events, and uploading archives.

#3: Expand educational outreach. Organizing history museum showings of the site itself will enlighten visitors about what has happened behind-the-curtains. Further alliances with elementary schools and the Berkeley World Music Festival are necessary for anchoring its position in the Bay Area.

#4: Decrease environmental impact. As simple and cheap as installing water faucet aerators and LED lighting with, if possible, donated light filters and materials. Replacing streetside thin pane windows with heat conserving windows can also be a long-term goal, but should be focused on as soon as possible for safety concerns. Installing higher quality sound meters will ensure noise levels do not bother neighbors. Lastly, installing bike racks and offering ticket incentives to bicyclists will increase environmental friendly means of transportation.

Performance by Macy Blackman & the Mighty Fines, 9-26-15 #5: Gain additional funding opportunities. Holding fundraisers, events with sponsorship, requesting more grants, and staying up to date with volunteer matching websites will be necessary for reducing spending and gaining resources.

25-Year Long Term Goals

#1: Secure funding sources. Securing a regular source of funding through grants, endowments, or personal bequests is necessary, though it is difficult to predict the changes that will occur in the Bay Area over 25 years.

#2: Digitally preserve and protect tangible heritage. Given the rapidity at which digital technology changes it is crucial that this information be stored in a format that will not become obsolete. Use of a digital storage service such as Mukurtu could safeguard these files so that they can be accessed indefinitely.

#3: Continue to provide a welcoming space for all. As mentioned in the 5-Year plan, a diverse and passionate patron base is key to ensuring the venue’s longevity.

 

 

Home
Background
Appraisal
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Interpretive Projects 
Project Media 
Ashkenaz Cultural Heritage Interpretation & Site Management Plan (.pdf)