Borders, issue 37 of Block Club magazine, was the first edition of our quarterly publication that I was lucky enough to contribute to as a designer. For my first effort, I was asked to create an accompanying illustration to a case study focusing on a unique urban farm program called R.E.A.P. (Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program) which employs skilled refugees from all over the world to cultivate a large plot of land right in downtown Cleveland known as the Ohio City Farm. The concept for the illustration was simple enough in theory—create a farmers’ market poster highlighting the unique cultural diversity of this urban farm by utilizing some of the refugee’s native languages while also depicting the dichotomy of city and agriculture. The execution of this idea, however, lead me through quite a process and a number of different directions before I ended up with what would become my premier illustration for Block Club magazine. I thought I would share some images of that process and the development of my final composition here.
-Ryan
In June, I wrote about how we come up with our magazine’s themes. I wrote that in each year’s four issues, we look to cover a variety of themes under an umbrella arc—something that connects these vague, abstract concepts from issue to issue. Sometimes those themes bleed into each other. Now is such a time.
Our current issue, Shhh, looks at secrets, lies and other silence, about how those barriers can build walls of seclusion and emotional imprisonment. Our next issue, Borders, looks at the boundaries that keep us within some imaginary or physical limit. As you see, they both address confinement, among other ideas, as it relates to self-identity.
I’m finding such excitement in traversing these two issues at the same time. As with almost every theme we’ve explored in the last two years, there’s an inverse reaction to the title: Stop implies Start; Comfort implies Discomfort or Fear; The Fight implies Passivity, or something to that effect. With both Shhh and Borders, we’re looking at how definition can hold us to a standard, or keep us labeled, or in order, in check, or accessible. But, of course, we also see that there are walls that these definitions build, some of which we ought to tear down, and some of which we ought to keep.
I hope that—and know that—our readers take time on our pages, to delve into the layers we’re trying to swim, even the lighter, shallower ones. I know that there are strong connections to be drawn from one issue to the next, in one story format or another, but I trust that there are many, many, infinitely many more that we can’t possibly convey in 64 pages. The goal with the bleeding of these themes under a four-issue arc is to marinate in this idea for a while, and enjoy it slowly. If your time spent with an issue of Block Club is like a warm bath or cup of tea, then we’ll have done our part. The rest is up to you. :-)
Stay tuned for more on Issue 37, Borders, in the coming weeks, and enjoy Issue 36, Shhh, currently available on free newsstands around WNY and online. Thanks for reading!
-Ben
Image of Crafterall's paper lakes courtesy Colossal.

In June, I wrote about how we come up with our magazine’s themes. I wrote that in each year’s four issues, we look to cover a variety of themes under an umbrella arc—something that connects these vague, abstract concepts from issue to issue. Sometimes those themes bleed into each other. Now is such a time.

Our current issue, Shhh, looks at secrets, lies and other silence, about how those barriers can build walls of seclusion and emotional imprisonment. Our next issue, Borders, looks at the boundaries that keep us within some imaginary or physical limit. As you see, they both address confinement, among other ideas, as it relates to self-identity.

I’m finding such excitement in traversing these two issues at the same time. As with almost every theme we’ve explored in the last two years, there’s an inverse reaction to the title: Stop implies Start; Comfort implies Discomfort or Fear; The Fight implies Passivity, or something to that effect. With both Shhh and Borders, we’re looking at how definition can hold us to a standard, or keep us labeled, or in order, in check, or accessible. But, of course, we also see that there are walls that these definitions build, some of which we ought to tear down, and some of which we ought to keep.

I hope that—and know that—our readers take time on our pages, to delve into the layers we’re trying to swim, even the lighter, shallower ones. I know that there are strong connections to be drawn from one issue to the next, in one story format or another, but I trust that there are many, many, infinitely many more that we can’t possibly convey in 64 pages. The goal with the bleeding of these themes under a four-issue arc is to marinate in this idea for a while, and enjoy it slowly. If your time spent with an issue of Block Club is like a warm bath or cup of tea, then we’ll have done our part. The rest is up to you. :-)

Stay tuned for more on Issue 37, Borders, in the coming weeks, and enjoy Issue 36, Shhh, currently available on free newsstands around WNY and online. Thanks for reading!

-Ben

Image of Crafterall's paper lakes courtesy Colossal.

In the spirit of your Aunt Crazy Pants’s holiday family newsletter, I’d like to offer the following words about a particularly joyous winter here at Block Club magazine. Have a seat, relax, and get a whiff of what we’ve been doing:

To start, we had the sickest issue launch party ever last weekend. To say that we were ready to boom would be the understatement of this three-week-long year. It’s been frigid, but 2014 is a steaming hot pile of excitement here in Buffalo. Issue 34 both celebrates and fist-shakes at the good and bad booms that enter our lives and cities. There’s joy in explosive results, and also letdown. For this one night, however, we focused on the bright lights. Buffalo sure understands a party.

I’m no accountant, but I’d guess this was Block Club’s best-attended soirée to date, and we’ve hosted a catering hall’s fair share of soirées. The formula is always the same—original people, inarguable tunes, many sleeves of red Solos. Let’s not mention the Great Flip Cup Challenge of…no, let’s not mention it. Let’s go with: we celebrate well.

We once again gathered for jovial pursuits, yes, but also to  launch the new issue of our humble little seven-year-old magazine child. He’s growing up so fast. The terrible twos were no myth, lemmetellyou. Seven is better. Seven is mature, and respectable. Seven can tie his own shoes.

Block Club magazine has changed a bit over the years, to which many of you can personally attest. Where it stands today, tall and proud and full of civic, progressive, creative spirit, is precisely why we throw such parties. We are too proud of our city’s resolve to become who we want to be, and to enjoy the ride on the way there. (Though, obvi, there is no “there”; we are “there” whenever we are here. But that’s introducing metaphysical noise on an office party recap, so.)

In addition to the jams, the snacks and the booze, there was also art, conversation and many new introductions. Much to my surprise, I’m hearing a lot of disbelief about the veracity of the issue’s photographed Boom signs. They are, indeed, real. We make things here at Block Club, with our hands and noggins and hearts and anything else that gets dirty. These four signs are mighty big, heavy and hand-painted in our amazingly creepy city basement. We hopped in Tim’s big truck and ventured out to city and suburban locations and held those signs up ourselves. It was a little dangerous at points, but worth the statement: true Booms change lives, so let’s pay attention when we see one approaching, AND let’s react smartly when one drops on our lap. It’s all in our hands, folks. I speak for the whole team here when I say that seeing readers interact with these signs was pretty sweet. I love that art is a complementary element in our printed paper magazine. It’s rewarding to see what’s on the pages spill out onto walls and into people’s mouths. Great chats all around about what Boom means. The conversation continues…

We’d like to thank our friends at Community Beer Works, The Black Market Food Truck, and the fantabulistic ABCDJ (Sherri and Mario!) for their help in making this such a sweet night.

We’re working very hard on the next issue—35, holy shnikes—coming this April, and on the next slate of issues. (I’m giddy about the moment when we’ll announce the next four themes. It’s, like….I wanna do it right now but I can’t.) You can still grab a copy of Boom, for absolutely free and zero cents, in your favorite WNY local-shopping district, and 24/7 online. And when we party next, you’ll be with us, of course, so you won’t need such a recap to summarize other peoples’ fun Friday night. What we you doing instead, I also meant to ask. Hmmm?

In the meantime, Buffalo and those beyond the Queen City: rock hard, live truthfully, and BOOM BIG!

-Ben

BOOM!

Issue 34, Boom, is out today. In it we look at the explosions in our lives that re-set the course. The things that dictate a major shift in our understanding of normalcy, be it our land, our health, our culture, our urban identity, or any other pillar of life. Some booms are big and spectacular—a big show!—and some are quiet and reserved—a background din. But, in any instance, we move on, move forward, clean up and await the next big boom.

Look forward to more updates and posts about BOOM and Issue 34. It’s an exciting one!

Copies of Boom will be available for free in your favorite local-shopping district, and online.

-Ben

Block Club loves you, too, Pittsburgh!
Last week saw the debut expansion infiltration takeover organic growth of Block Club magazine into Rochester. Well starting this week, you can find Block Club in Pittsburgh, too. Woohooo again!!!
As with Rochester, there are 1,000 copies available in PGH—for now. We will be increasing our distribution there over the course of the next few issues. And then, who knows?
They do go fast, these little buggers, so don’t waste time. They’re free, made with oodles of love, and are ready for you at 25 locations in and around the city, including Espresso a Mano, Creative Reuse, The Andy Warhol Museum, the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, Brillobox, Orbis Caffe, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the East End Food Co-op, and the many more. 
This issue is our 32nd, and is called Stop. In it, we discuss the things in our cities and lives that end, and what we do in response. It includes a wonderful piece of short fiction by Pittsburgh writer Chastity West about a woman’s inability to escape her halted state of mind. 
We’re pumped to be in your amazingly fun city, Pittsburgh, and can’t wait to explore, learn, converse and share more! Rust Belt unite!

Much love,Ben and the Block Club team

Block Club loves you, too, Pittsburgh!

Last week saw the debut expansion infiltration takeover organic growth of Block Club magazine into Rochester. Well starting this week, you can find Block Club in Pittsburgh, too. Woohooo again!!!

As with Rochester, there are 1,000 copies available in PGH—for now. We will be increasing our distribution there over the course of the next few issues. And then, who knows?

They do go fast, these little buggers, so don’t waste time. They’re free, made with oodles of love, and are ready for you at 25 locations in and around the city, including Espresso a Mano, Creative Reuse, The Andy Warhol Museum, the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, Brillobox, Orbis Caffe, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the East End Food Co-op, and the many more. 

This issue is our 32nd, and is called Stop. In it, we discuss the things in our cities and lives that end, and what we do in response. It includes a wonderful piece of short fiction by Pittsburgh writer Chastity West about a woman’s inability to escape her halted state of mind. 

We’re pumped to be in your amazingly fun city, Pittsburgh, and can’t wait to explore, learn, converse and share more! Rust Belt unite!

Much love,

Ben and the Block Club team

Block Club loves you Rochester!
That’s right, Flower City. Beginning today, you can now find Block Club magazine in your neck of the woods! Woohooo!!!
Only 1,000 copies are available, and based on our experience here in Buffalo, they go fast. But they’re free, made with lots of love, and are ready for all for you to enjoy! You can find Block Club at 25 locations in and around the city, including Boulder Coffee Co., Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, House of Guitars, Genesee Brewing Co., The Little Theatre, The George Eastman House, Needle Drop Records, The Owl House, and many more.
This issue is our 32nd, and is called Stop. In it, we discuss the things in our cities and lives that end, and what we do in response. It includes a wonderful story by Rochester writer Laura Sikes about the city’s dormant subway platforms, which were beautifully photographed by another Rochesterian Kyle Schwab.
Pictured above is local artist Thievin’ Stephen, whose wall art tag is captured in one of Kyle’s photos. Our distributor-and-bestie Lulu caught up with Stephen today, who’s hard at work on the city’s Wall Therapy event, where he caught up with the photo.
We’re pumped to be in your fine town, Rochester, and can’t wait to explore, learn, converse and share more! Rust Belt unite! (Pittsburgh, we’re coming for you next…)
Much love,Ben and the Block Club team

Block Club loves you Rochester!

That’s right, Flower City. Beginning today, you can now find Block Club magazine in your neck of the woods! Woohooo!!!

Only 1,000 copies are available, and based on our experience here in Buffalo, they go fast. But they’re free, made with lots of love, and are ready for all for you to enjoy! You can find Block Club at 25 locations in and around the city, including Boulder Coffee Co., Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, House of Guitars, Genesee Brewing Co., The Little Theatre, The George Eastman House, Needle Drop Records, The Owl House, and many more.

This issue is our 32nd, and is called Stop. In it, we discuss the things in our cities and lives that end, and what we do in response. It includes a wonderful story by Rochester writer Laura Sikes about the city’s dormant subway platforms, which were beautifully photographed by another Rochesterian Kyle Schwab.

Pictured above is local artist Thievin’ Stephen, whose wall art tag is captured in one of Kyle’s photos. Our distributor-and-bestie Lulu caught up with Stephen today, who’s hard at work on the city’s Wall Therapy event, where he caught up with the photo.

We’re pumped to be in your fine town, Rochester, and can’t wait to explore, learn, converse and share more! Rust Belt unite! (Pittsburgh, we’re coming for you next…)

Much love,

Ben and the Block Club team

Hi friends!
We’re excited to start sharing Block Club, based in Buffalo, with a few of our neighbor cities. By now, you’ve noticed stories popping up in our newly re-designed format about cities in the Rust Belt region (and, in fact, around the world). We’re going to continue telling more stories from and about elsewhere, as we expand our vocabulary about what it means to be a 21st-century post-industrial city. Stay tuned for developments regarding that.
In the meantime, friends in Rochester, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will soon find free copies of Block Club in some of their favorite coffee shops, locally owned restaurants and independent retailers (see below).
You can also read online if you so desire. We’re on Facebook and Twitter, too. :-)
If you have ideas about where else you think Block Club would fit, let us know! We want to hear from you. Until then, thanks for reading and for sharing our stories for us.
Best,
Ben and the team

ROCHESTER
Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, 1344 University Ave.
Needle Drop Records, 304 Gregory St.
Thread, 654 South Ave.
Java’s Cafe, 16 Gibbs St.
The Owl House, 75 Marshall St.
Abundance Cooperative Market, 62 Marshall St.

SYRACUSE
Strong Hearts Cafe, 719 E. Genesee St.
Recess Coffee, 110 Harvard Pl.
Funk ‘N Waffles, 727 S Crouse Ave., #8
Mello Vello Bike Shop & Cafe, 556 Westcott St.
Cafe @ 407, 407 Tulip St.
Natur-Tyme, 3160 Erie Blvd E.

PITTSBURGH
Wildcard, 4209 Butler St.
Square Cafe, 1137 S. Braddock Ave.
Pavement, 3629 Butler St.
East End Food Co-op, 7516 Meade St.
Espresso a Mano, 3623 Butler St.
720 Records, 4405 Butler St.

Image: mural in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

Hi friends!

We’re excited to start sharing Block Club, based in Buffalo, with a few of our neighbor cities. By now, you’ve noticed stories popping up in our newly re-designed format about cities in the Rust Belt region (and, in fact, around the world). We’re going to continue telling more stories from and about elsewhere, as we expand our vocabulary about what it means to be a 21st-century post-industrial city. Stay tuned for developments regarding that.

In the meantime, friends in Rochester, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will soon find free copies of Block Club in some of their favorite coffee shops, locally owned restaurants and independent retailers (see below).

You can also read online if you so desire. We’re on Facebook and Twitter, too. :-)

If you have ideas about where else you think Block Club would fit, let us know! We want to hear from you. Until then, thanks for reading and for sharing our stories for us.

Best,

Ben and the team

ROCHESTER

Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, 1344 University Ave.

Needle Drop Records, 304 Gregory St.

Thread, 654 South Ave.

Java’s Cafe, 16 Gibbs St.

The Owl House, 75 Marshall St.

Abundance Cooperative Market, 62 Marshall St.

SYRACUSE

Strong Hearts Cafe, 719 E. Genesee St.

Recess Coffee, 110 Harvard Pl.

Funk ‘N Waffles, 727 S Crouse Ave., #8

Mello Vello Bike Shop & Cafe, 556 Westcott St.

Cafe @ 407, 407 Tulip St.

Natur-Tyme3160 Erie Blvd E.

PITTSBURGH

Wildcard, 4209 Butler St.

Square Cafe, 1137 S. Braddock Ave.

Pavement, 3629 Butler St.

East End Food Co-op, 7516 Meade St.

Espresso a Mano, 3623 Butler St.

720 Records4405 Butler St.

Image: mural in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

BCM30 is out and about! The topic of our 30th issue is a big one. It discusses the emotion of comfort; the need to use it joyously and warmly, but also judiciously and responsibly. On the other side of our most comfortable comforts are crutches, awaiting our need for more.

We approach this in a civic sense to understand that we can’t grow as a people, community, city or region without stepping outside of our comforts. That said, we all have relative needs for comfort; some need it to live, and some “need” it to be “happy.” Navigating both ends of this word helps us to prioritize the things we should keep holding onto, and the things we need to let go of.

However you come to the word, find yourself a copy soon (if not at one of our distribution points around town, then online), curl up in that sweet blanket you’ve been hibernating in all season, and find what makes you comfortable. Take account of your crutches, while you’re at it.

This issue’s photo series and covers reflect the origin of our attachment to such things. Surely, you’ll recognize a keepsake from your past (or present).

Stay tuned for more posts in the coming weeks featuring elements from our conversations, stories and design. There’s more comfort coming your way…

Best,

Ben

Buffalo’s grain silos, beautifully lit and exalted for all of this creative city to see. City of Night organizer Dana Saylor, and I’m sure an army of volunteers, has a lot to be proud of.

You can read and watch more about what City of Night was, but all you have to see are these images of light, color, vision and creativity. This event was successful because of all the art, vendors and activism, but more importantly, because it literally shed light on what we have to work with, and what we can create with it.

Good work, all around. Let’s do it again. Where else?

-Ben