Conference Bios

Steve Badanes
Steve Badanes is a co-founder of Jersey Devil, a group of architects. artists, and inventors committed to the interdependence of design and construction. Jersey Devil partners build all their own work, which shows a concern for craft and detail, innovative use of materials, and a strong environmental consciousness. They have been the subject of two monographs: the Jersey Devil Design Build Book, and Devil’s Workshop 25 Years of Jersey Devil Architecture, and Badanes has lectured on design/build at over 100 universities in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Qatar.  At University of Washington, Badanes holds the Howard S. Wright Endowed Chair and directs the Neighborhood Design/Build Studio, which builds small community projects for Seattle area non-profits. He co-founded the University of Washington Design Build Mexico program, which won an AIA Education Honor Award in 1997. The Neighborhood Design/Build Studio won one in 2005 and an NCARB Prize in 2004. Badanes was awarded an ACSA Distinguished Professor Award in 2002 and the Solar Pioneer Award from the American Solar Energy Society in 2005. In summer, he teaches at the Yestermorrow Design Build School in Vermont.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen grew up in Brighton and London, England. In1979. He graduated from Middlesex University, London, receiving a B.Sc. with honors in Society and Technology. He has lived in Ithaca, New York, since 1980.   After 10 years as a builder and renovator of homes, Michael embarked on a career as a playground professional. For 21 years, he worked at the internationally renowned playground company created by the architect Robert S. (Bob) Leathers. He has helped hundreds of grass-roots community groups in the U.S. and oversees create outstanding children’s playgrounds.  In 2010, Michael created Must Have Play to design and build similarly innovative playgrounds to meet the needs of elders for attractive and effective places to exercise, socialize, and play.

Robin Corbo
Robin Corbo has been an established Portland muralist for six years. Public art has been a marriage of her passion for painting along with her love of working with large groups of people to execute a shared vision. The seeds of this art practice were planted 10 years ago when she graduated from the College of Santa Fe with a BA in Art Therapy. After years of working as a social worker and success coach she has cultivated a method for facilitating mural projects that illustrate communities missions in public places. Her projects have mirrored her own personal interests in bicycle transportation, feminism, local people’s history, public health education, and forest activism. Other recent projects have involved performance, puppetry, masquerade, and interactive installations.  She recently completed her MFA in Contemporary Art Practices at Portland State University.

Sharon Gamson Danks
Sharon Gamson Danks is author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (New Village Press, Nov. 2010), and an environmental planner and principal of Bay Tree Design. Sharon’s professional work has focused on schoolyard ecology and ecological design since 1999. As a researcher, writer, and hands-on designer/planner, she has visited and documented over 200 green schoolyards in North America, Europe, and Japan.

Tom Arie Donch
Tom Arie Donch has been designing and creating sculptural play environments for thirty-two years. He got his start in 1978 when he worked with young Fort Logan residential mental health patients in Denver Colorado to create an outdoor lion sculpture. Years of public meetings, community built projects, and over 3.000 workshops and design sessions with children have inspired a design process “that work for both children and adults”. Tom has worked in twenty-one different states on hundreds of installations across the U.S.A. Public parks, playgrounds, public art, monuments, skate parks, nature trails, children’s’ hospitals and interactive museum exhibits have all been the focus of his work. He is a founding member and served eighteen years on the board of directors for the Community Built Association. Having received certification as a NPSI playground safety inspector, he creates custom sculptural play spaces that are unique as well as meet ASTM, CPSC and ADA standards. Tom attended the University of Minnesota for undergraduate work in visual arts and community organizing and went to graduate school in community development at the University of California at Davis.

Jen Delos Reyes
Jen Delos Reyes is an artist originally from Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Her research interests include the history of socially engaged art, group work, band dynamics, folk music, and artists’ social roles. She has exhibited works across North America and Europe, and has contributed writing to various catalogues and institutional publications. She has received numerous grants and awards including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant. Jen is the founder and director of Open Engagement, a conference on socially engaged art practice and herself speaks widely on Art and Social Practice at conferences and institutions around the world. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Portland State University where she co-directs the Art and Social Practice MFA.

Lisa Howard
Lisa Howard is a landscape architect and principal of Bay Tree Design, inc. in Berkeley, California. Since her graduation from U.C. Berkeley, and studies with Randolph Hester and Marcia McNally, Lisa’s professional focus has been on projects where the design and planning process is organized around community participation. Since becoming a mother, she has developed a passionate interest in improving children’s freedom of play and the environments they inhabit.
Stephen Reed Johnson
Steve Johnson has been a community activist, researcher, educator, lecturer and consultant for 35 years. He has worked with over 500 nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and businesses. He returned to university life in the late 1990s. His Ph.D. thesis, The Transformation of Civic Institutions and Practices in Portland, Oregon 1960-1999, (2001) was awarded the best dissertation of the year award on urban politics by the American Political Science Association. Last year he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand; and currently is Research Fellow, Ryokoku University, Kyoto, Japan; Visiting Professor, Gyankuji College, Katmandu, Nepal, and Visiting Scholar, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia. As adjunct professor at Portland State University he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on citizen participation, community studies, urban watersheds, civic engagement and social institutions, urban planning, and healthy communities.

Mark Lakeman
Mark is a creative, urban place-maker in his commitment to the emergence of a thriving and sustainable cultural landscape. He seeks to make every design project one which will further the development of a community vision, whether it involves urban design and place making, ecological building, encourages community interaction, or assists those who typically do not have access to design services. Mark’s leadership in Communitecture, and its non profit affiliate The City Repair Project, has benefited communities across the North American continent.

Mike Lanza
Mike Lanza is Founder and Chief Play Officer of In addition to his writing for his blog and upcoming book, Mike is an active promoter of play for his three children (7, 4, and 2) and neighbor children in his neighborhood in Menlo Park, California.  Prior to starting Playborhood, Mike was a “serial entrepreneur,” founding and running five software/Internet companies. Mike holds four degrees from Stanford University – an MA and BA in Economics, an MBA, and an MA in Education.

Rusty Keeler
Rusty Keeler is the founder of Planet Earth Playscapes and the Earthplay Network. He is an artist / designer with a unique sensitivity to the sights, sounds and experiences of childhood. He has a deep belief in the beauty and importance of play in the development of children and his designs reflect his sincere desire to create a more beautiful world in which to grow and explore. Rusty works throughout the world creating play environments for children and lectures at colleges and conferences internationally. He is the author of the book Natural Playscapes (2008: Exchange Press) Rusty lives among the woods and gorges of the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. When not designing or building playscapes you may find him barefoot in his garden.

Graham Klag
Graham Klag studied Biology and Fine Arts at the University of Puget Sound. After graduating he worked for Olympic National Park’s Wilderness Resource Department. Shortly thereafter he returned home to Portland where he joined the Forest Park Conservancy where he works to maintain and sustain the 5500 acre park. Graham has continued his exploration into science art with his public art project ‘Invasion of Place’ and personal paintings made from northwest native plants. He continues to be an active artist in the Portland exploring the role of community in public art. Graham is also an avid skier and surfer, who enjoys migrating with the ocean from surf to snow all over the world.

Milenko Matanovic
Milenko is a thinker, teacher and an artist preparing communities for the future. In 1986, Milenko founded Pomegranate Center to explore how to use creativity in ways to improve society. He believes that working with communities is the most efficient, foundational way to improve society.  He teaches that when it comes to community, together we always know more.  He worked with hundreds of communities across the country and abroad, build over 40 gathering places, spoke at universities and community gatherings and conferences, and trained community leaders in the Pomegranate Center model of community building. He has been honored with many awards.

Jenny Pell
Jenny Pell is a permaculture designer, consultant, and teacher based in Seattle, WA.  Jenny specializes in edible landscapes, urban permaculture, and creating “living genetic banks” of useful and valuable plant materials on projects large and small.  Recent designs include a 7-acre permaculture food forest on public lands in Seattle, a two-acre demonstration garden at Evergreen State College, and a collaborative project integrating permaculture on a 60-acre organic farm outside of Portland, OR.  She has a small urban farm in Seattle where she experiments with mixed annuals and perennial hedgerows.  Jenny and a group of colleagues recently launched a new venture in Seattle called Honeyscapes – designing and installing pollinator landscapes that include honeybee hives, mason bee habitat and extensive bee forage plantings for both insectaries and nectaries. Honeyscapes include beautiful hedgerows of perennial flowers and shrubs, some of them with delicious fruits, that serve many functions – habitat, pollen, bee and bird forage, berries for people, cut flowers, attracting beneficial insects, and helping increase yields in our vegetable gardens and urban orchards.  Tropical permaculture is another passion – Jenny has worked in Central America and Hawaii, and is expecting the head to Suriname this year to bring permaculture whole systems design to a series of new villages being built over the next 5 years.

Stephen Shibley
Stephen Shibley is the owner and operator of Fertile Ground, LLC, a landscape architectural company specializing in labyrinth design and construction as a vehicle for transformation — designing gardens which invite people to rediscover their sacred ground. He has a degree of Applied Science in Landscape Technology and Design from Portland Community College in 1984 and Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Oregon in 1987. After serving in the Peace Corps and working on a CSA farm, Stephen has been in the landscape design and contracting industry for over twenty-five years designing landscapes that offer a deeper connection between people and place. His life journey has led him to the labyrinth as a dynamic and inclusive expression, with its varied form and function, of the uniquely creative and beautiful path to discovering one’s center. Building labyrinths in public spaces can be a catalyst for healing and transformation in dysfunctional as well as thriving communities. Labyrinths provide opportunities for play, celebration, reflection, and rejuvenation. Community gathering spaces in the landscape invite people to rediscover their common ground. Stephen can be found mountain biking or stand-up paddle boarding when his hands are not in the soil.

Lynn Takata
Lynn Takata is an award-winning artist with over 30 years of experience creating participatory public art for community centers, schools, parks, and zoos. Takata has created over 300 public mosaics, murals and sculpture with ferro concrete, mosaic tile, glass, ceramic relief and paint. Takata involves hundreds of participants creating their own designs for each project. She choreographs these elements as the project design develops so as the mosaic is a dynamic and exciting improvisational process. Participants range from age 2 to 95. Takata is nationally known for creating participatory mosaics and her work is installed at the Oregon Zoo and Washington Park in Portland and for the Chicago Park District at Pratt Beach. Her recent sculpture for Salem, Oregon involved over 600 participants in creating the Salem Peace Mosaic featuring 8” high ceramic relief and over 4,000 tiles to promote that the word Salem means Peace. Participants included youth from a correctional facility, at-risk youth with a parent in prison or on parole, youth from 25 schools, seniors and families. Workshops were held at community centers, a coffee house, the library, on street corners, an art fair and at a Native American powwow. Takata collaborates with poets on many of her projects including poetry from the community. Poetry can be stamped, painted or carved in ceramic and cast in glass. She teaches glass and mosaic classes at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and is a consultant on public art projects.

John Pittman Weber
Best known as a public artist, John Pitman Weber has led and co-led mosaic, concrete relief, and painted murals for over 40 years, in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles,  Minneapolis, Paris, France, and Managua, Nicaragua.  During summer 2010 he served as a Cultural Envoy to Spain, working with La Ciudad Pintada in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Alava, Spain.  He has co-created major mosaic commissions for Broward County, Florida (2009) libraries and for Spencer, Iowa, the latter as part of Artists and Communities, America Creates for the Millennium. Weber co-founded the Chicago Mural Group (now Chicago Public Art Group) with the late William Walker in 1970-71.  He authored, with Eva and James Cockcroft Toward A People’s Art (Dutton, 1977), the classic account of the early years of the contemporary mural movement, reissued in 1998 in an expanded edition by U. of New Mexico Press. Weber studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, and Harvard University.   He taught at Elmhurst College for 43 years and is now Emeritus.  His studio-home is in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

Daniel Winterbottom
Daniel Winterbottom, RLA, FASLA, is a landscape architect with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Tufts University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington. His firm, Winterbottom Design Inc., focuses their practice on healing/restorative gardens. His research interests include the landscape as a cultural expression, ecological urban design and the role of restorative/healing landscapes in the built environment. He has been published widely in Northwest Public Health, Places, the New York Times, Seattle Times, Seattle P.I., Landscape Architecture Magazine. He has authored “Wood in the Landscape” and has contributed to several books on sustainable design, community gardens, therapeutic landscapes and community service learning. He has developed several programs including the participatory design design/build program in 1995 where with his students he works with communities to design and build projects that address the social and ecological concerns of the community. He has completed projects in Seattle, New York City, Bedford Hills New York, Mexico, Guatemala, Bosnia/Herzegovina and Croatia. In 2006 he developed the Healing Garden Certificate program at the University of Washington.

Steve Wood
Steve Wood is the director of Concrete Couch, a community-based organization that facilitates mural, sculpture, performance programs and other creative endeavors, by working collaboratively with host organizations. Wood received a BA from Colorado College in 1984 and has apprenticed with master muralist Eric Bransby. He has received numerous awards, including the “Community Weaver Award” (1998, from KRCC, and the Colorado Springs Independent), the “Public Art Empowering Youth Award” (1999 from the Pikes Peak Arts Council), the “Continuing Support for Arts Education Award” (2003, from the Arts, Business and Education Consortium) and the “Service Learning Award” in 1996. His community art projects have also garnered numerous design awards, including the “Project of the Year” award from the American Public Works Association in 2003.

Betty Rosen Ziff
Betty Rosen Ziff is a professional mosaic artist, community builder, and educator. Founder of MOSAIC ALCHEMY, she is passionate about bringing creative second chances to both materials and people.  The irony of time consuming, hand- crafted work in our instantly gratified and constantly transforming society is not lost on her. Mosaic work can be both meditative and maddening. Betty enjoys sharing the creative process and inspiring everyone to express their artistic selves.  Since 2000, she has been leading community workshops,  and celebrations, as well as corporate and individually personalized custom design projects and events that bring people together and result in a one-of-a kind mosaic art piece. A few previous “Alchemist” collaborators include The MUSEUM OF GLASS, Tacoma Washington,  EYE ON DESIGN: Long Beach Public Art Council,  ANGELS GATE CULTURAL CENTER; San Pedro CA, FOREST LAWN MUSEUMS, LOS ANGELES CULTURAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT, and PIECE BY PIECE.  Mosaic Alchemy will launch its first TOUR in 2013-2014 as Betty travels initially to North Carolina,  New York, and Colorado for residencies in a variety of communities.  Please contact if you would like bring us to your part of the world…and remember “Never Grout Alone.”