Fractal Workshop at Kalamazoo College

On May 9, 2019, members of Sweet Water Foundation’s core team journeyed to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in southwestern Michigan to lead a Fractal Building Workshop for a group of students, faculty, and local residents. The trip was initiated by a former SWF Fellow, Yasi Shaker. During her time as a Fellow, Yasi became part of the SWF family and immersed herself in SWF’s practice of Regenerative Neighborhood Development. When her fellowship came to an end in December 2018, Yasi began making plans to share what she learned with students, faculty, and community members in Kalamazoo. Read on to learn more about the trip and how SWF’s practice is spreading across the nation.


The Fractal Building Workshop at Kalamazoo College is yet another demonstration of Sweet Water Foundation’s "mycelial" and hyper-local impact that connects people from across the country and from various walks of life. The workshop highlighted connections between Sweet Water Foundation, Kalamazoo College, Studio Gang Architects, and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center.

Over 40 people gathered at the Arcus Center, which was designed by SWF collaborator, Studio Gang Architects, for a presentation about the possibilities of Regenerative Neighborhood Development, followed by a hands-on Fractal Building Workshop. During the workshop, the SWF team not only taught participants how to build fractals, but also shared the possible ways to use fractals to claim space.

The group decided to use the completed fractals in their Hoophouse on campus. The creation of the hoophouse was a student-driven project led by Yasi and her friends to bring a new method of growing food to the school, utilize a space on campus that was vacant and unused, and engage with the campus food system. After three years of work, the Hoophouse was built and is now in its first growing season. Following the workshop, the group led a procession to the hoophouse and placed the fractals in the space. Since the workshop in May, fractals have been used as chairs, tables, crates to hold harvested produce, and art. Yet again, the Fractal Building Workshop helped spread SWF’s practice outside the City of Chicago and connected SWF to other groups seeking to implement a regenerative model of development and community building.

The SWF team was excited to reconnect with Yasi and other students who have visited The Commons in Kalamazoo. As the halfway point between Chicago and Detroit, SWF looks forward to visiting The Arcus Center in Kalamazoo for future workshops, meetings, events, and reconnections with valued partners such as Kim Sherobbi and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center, students, and local Kalamazoo residents who are working in spaces similar to SWF.  

I am so grateful to be part of Sweet Water Foundation team and family. Thank you so much for visiting us in Kalamazoo. I appreciate how you all raise our collective awareness and understanding of history, race, culture, colonialism, and class in ways that disrupt the normative stories and histories. You made us all think differently about ourselves, the world and our relationship to it, from a viewpoint that is not and will not be taught in our classroom spaces.
— Yasi Shaker, SWF Fellow and Student at Kalamazoo College
Wow, what an amazing time we had with Sweetwater Foundation! We’re so grateful for their visit and for the new addition to our space: fractals—a chair, a table, a box, a radical art form, the only limit is your imagination! We can’t wait to see this relationship grow and evolve.
— Orly, Student at Kalamazoo College
Courtney Hug