Eduardo Vianna, developmental educator, profiled in NY Times


21COMMUNITY1-articleLargeVygotskian educator Eduardo Vianna is profiled today in The New York Times for his empathic, effective work as a college instructor at LaGuardia Community College.  You can read reporter Ginia Bellafante’s Raising Ambitions, The Challenge of Teaching at Community Colleges HERE.

The profile captures Dr. Vianna’s developmental focus in the classroom which includes engaging his adult students’ oftentimes wary relationship to the educational system.

Dr. Vianna trained as a medical doctor in his home country of Brazil and practiced as a child psychiatrist in Rio de Janeiro. After coming to NYC, he pursued his doctoral studies in developmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he received his Ph.D. in 2006. During these years he also studied  “Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky,” social therapeutics and the work of the Institute.

A researcher as well as gifted educator, he was the recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award given by the Cultural-Historical Research SIG in 2010.

Congratulations to our friend, Eduardo Vianna!


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‘Performing the World 2014’ investigates: How shall we become?


More than 400 participants from 34 countries attended Performing the World 2014 (PTW) at the All Stars Project’s national headquarters in New York City. The biennial autumn conference, co-sponsored by the Institute and All Stars Project, Inc., brought together performance activists, educators, therapists, artists, community organizers, social workers and business people — among them, dozens of longtime Institute colleagues, trainees and International Class alumni — to explore this year’s theme How Shall We Become?  The three-day event included five plenary sessions and  83 workshops, panel discussions and performances — an inspiring array of projects showing the power of performance to create new ways of seeing and being. In keeping  with the conference theme, conference presenters worked to keep the question of how and the topic of process front and center.

A grass-roots performance of community building, the conference was produced and staffed by nearly 200 volunteers; in addition, dozens of New York City housing hosts opened their homes so that international visitors had a place to stay.

Two plenary sessions opened the conference: One, titled “Becoming Performances,” explored, “how shall we become” in different countries, cultures and political, economic institutional contexts. Moderated by All Stars Project President and CEO Gabrielle L. Kurlanderit featured: medical doctor and clown Patch Adams; All Stars Project Co-founder and Institute faculty Lenora Fulani; Institute director Lois Holzman; Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company in St. Louis Joan Lipkin, ;  founder of the Smiling League based in Bogota Carlos Lopez; and Rita Omovbude, the leader of Street Project Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. A second panel led by Dr. Fulani with four alumni of the All Stars’ youth programs discussed the challenges of living in poverty and continuing to develop as productive and creative young adults.

Saturday afternoon’s plenaries gave people a choice of participating in The Verbing of Life: A Bee-coming, a performance workshop led by clowning M.D., Patch Adams; an All Stars Talent Show workshop in Harlem; a visit to the All Stars Newark New Jersey Flamm Center; or a rehearsal of the Castillo Theatre production of Still on the Corner.


The conference ended with choices of how to wrap up/perform Performing the World—musically, conversationally, therapeutically and theatrically—resulting in the creation of an original song that was spontaneously performed on the Fred Newman Stage, a performance space named after Institute and PTW co-founder, the late Fred Newman.

It went something like this:

The magic of humanity
Reflects the community;
Art reflecting life, life reflecting art,
Put on a bee-hat (bzzzz),
Now that’s a good start.
The magic of humanity —
Laughing’s revolutionary —
Dance beyond words, words beyond dance,
Do more, worry less
Gives us the best chance.
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
How shall we become?
The magic of humanity
Reflects the community;
Art reflecting life, life reflecting art
Put on a bee-hat (bzzzz),
Now that’s a good start.
How shall we become…how shall we become?!
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International educators discover ‘spaces to become a head taller’

Educators from the US and several other countries, in town for the 11th International Transformative Learning Conferenceat Teachers College, Columbia University, spent a pre-conference afternoon with Institute director Lois Holzman. Her workshop, entitled Spaces to Become A Head Taller introduced the Vygotskian-influenced, performatory psychology-of-becoming to a group of 20.

Ellen Scully-Russ

Ellen Scully-Russ

Conference organizers and Institute colleagues, Ellen Scully-Russ (George Washington University) and Aliki Nicolaides (University of Georgia at Athens), gave the 200 conference-goers several options (of which Holzman’s was one) for ways to explore some on-the-ground, transformational spaces in NYC.  Designed to help participants broaden and deepen their exploration of this year’s theme, Spaces of Transformation and Transformation of Spacethe pre-conference day activities helped “bring the outside culture and experience of NYC into the conference.”

Aliki Nicolaides

Aliki Nicolaides

The Spaces to Become a Head Taller workshop started out at the Institute where the 20 participants experientially explored the social activity of creating spaces in which individual and collective learning and development are a unified whole and accomplished through the activity of performing who we are. The group then moved to the All Stars Project National Headquarters on West 42nd Street. There they toured the 31,000-square-foot performance space and heard first-hand from young people and adults about the impact the All Stars programs (and its overall performatory environment) had on their lives and on challenging the limitations of poverty and exclusion.

There were kudos all around for the “spaces that you generated for our conference goers.” “What a way to begin an academic conference! We loved the space you created.”

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A ‘Revolutionary Vygotsky’ takes the stage at ISCAR Summit in Sydney


The expanding influence of ‘Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky’ at the International Sociiety for Cultural & Activity Research conference in Sydney, Australia — with (l. to r.) Cecília Magalhães, Mike Askew, Wellington Oliveira, Fernanda Liberali, Annalie Pistorius, Carrie Lobman and Lois Holzman (on screen).

The Institute’s director of pedagogy and Rutgers Univ. early childhood education faculty Carrie Lobman was among presenters at The 4th Congress of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research in Sydney, Australia. The conference drew some 400 scholars and researchers in the cultural historical tradition to the Antipodes.

Keynote presentations were made by: Michael Cole director of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Development at the Univ. of California at San Diego, who reported on the evolution and transformation of his longitudinal after-school project, The Fifth Dimension;  Anna Stetsenko, professor at the City University of New York Grad Center, who addressed how to move From Participation to Transformation and a transformative activist stance for human development and education; and Fernando Gonzalez Rey, a professor at the University Center of Brasilia, who challenged traditional individualistic understandings of motivation.


Carrie led a symposium titled, The Expanding Global Influence of Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky, which brought together a panel of colleagues who have studied at the Institute and developed a social therapeutic approach in their respective countries. Participants in this lively discussion of play, dialectics and pointless activity included Cecilia Magalhaes and Wellington Oliviera who presented on how Newman and Holzman’s ‘revolutionary Vygotsky’ has inspired the investigations of their Language in Activities in School Research Group (LACE) in Brazil, founded by Magalhaes and Fernanda Liberali. They were joined by Mike Askew from Monash University in Melbourne, who presented on ways Newman and Holzman’s advancements on Vygotsky’s understanding of play has shaped his work in elementary school mathematics; and Annalie Pistourus, an International Class alumna (also currently in long-distance supervision with the Institute’s Therapist Training Program director Christine LaCerva), who discussed what’s it like to do social therapy in Pretoria, South Africa

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Play’s the Thing in Japan


Institute Director Lois Holzman recently returned from an invited speaking tour to Japan organized by colleagues there with whom she has been building relationships since her first visit to Japan organized in 2012 by Professor Yuji Moro of the University of Tsukuba. Moro was joined by Professor Takashi Ito of Hokkaido University and Masayoshi Morioka of Kobe University in creating venues for Japanese scholars, educators and students to meet Holzman and the psychology of becoming that is social therapeutics.  The week-long tour also included visits to alternative communities in Urakawa, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea.

In Kobe, Holzman presented a keynote lecture on The How of Playing: Implications for Educational Psychology at the Conference of the Japanese Association for Educational Psychology. In addition, she led a three-hour workshop for 50 faculty and graduate students on play and performance for learning and development. [READ MORE]

At Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Holzman presented at a Symposium on Reconceptualizing Development, in conversation with two professors who presented on their research using “performance” and “tool-and-result” methodology as a new framework for their work with poor young men in Manila and for empowering the native Ainu people of Japan. The symposium was followed by a workshop on social therapeutics. [READ MORE]


Holzman along with Professor Ito and five university  students visited Bethel House, a unique entrepreneurial therapeutic community run by people who are mentally ill and located in Urakawa, a remote village of Hokkaido. In addition to observing several meetings of members, including their self-directed research, she had conversation with the head of Bethel House and some of the members on their success at playing, performing and socializing their symptoms. Karen Nakamura‘s book, A Disability of the Soul, tells how Bethel has helped confront the intense stigma of mental illness with such highly public events as “The Grand Prix of Hallucinations,” which draws visitors from across Japan annually. [READ MORE]

Professor Moro has been a major catalyst for introducing social therapeutics and Newman/Holzman’s Vygotsky across Japan. Says Holzman:


Yuji is known, loved and respected for his scholarship, teaching and intellectual leadership. He’s a dynamic community organizer, who successfully links students and professors with poor communities. There are 100s of young Japanese teachers, psycholo-gists, researchers and students who are now students of social therapeutics and grappling with how to make use of it in their context. 

Dr. Moro recently completed the Japanese translation of Holzman’s Vygotsky at Work and Play (Shin-yo-sha Publishers) and copies of the newly-minted edition were on display throughout the tour.

Posted in creativity and play, Lois Holzman, performance, Psychology, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New film by Ishita Sanyal “Opens the Doors” on mental illness in India


This report just in from 2008 International Class alumna Ishita Sanyal (second-from-right in photo above)Her new documentary film project, Open the Doorswhich she co-directed with Abhishek Ganguli, recently premiered at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata.  Special guests on hand for the premiere included American Consul General Helen La Fav; dance artist Alokananda Ray; and psychiatrists Rima Mukherji and Satyajit Mitra.

Ishita is a dynamic and unstoppable community organizer who founded the Kolkata-based grassroots mental health organization, Turning Point, 16 years ago in response to the devastating shortage of mental health services on a subcontinent with roughly 600 practicing clinical psychologists. She has been a passionate advocate for therapeutic community, and has continued to promote a social therapeutic approach to mental health.


According to Ishita, this latest film project is part of a broader initiative to explore how creativity can combat mental illness.”  In October, the film will have its NYC debut at screenings at the United Nations and at the Performing the World conference.


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Lobman in Kobe Japan at invitation of Dr. Hiroyuki Imai


An enthusiastic Performing the World 2012 participant and Institute colleague, Dr.       Hiroyuki Imai (professor on the Faculty of Foreign Language Studies at Kansai University, Osaka, Japan) was eager to make a creative match:  He sought to bring together Japanese educators working in the tradition of Reflective Practice with Institute and Performing the World colleagues who were advancing a Vygotskian inspired, cultural and improvisational approach to teaching and learning.

And so, he arranged with conference organizer Ken Tami for Institute faculty and teacher educator Carrie Lobman to be a keynote presenter and workshop leader at the recent Kobe City University of Foreign Studies education conference:  Exploring Approaches to Capture Experience in the Classroom.   

Other invited keynotes included educators Carol Richardson Rodgers (SUNY Albany, NY), Mark Monahan (Trinity College, Dublin) and Jo Trelfa (University of St. Mark and St. John, Plymouth).

At Dr. Imai’s request, Lobman introduced her new Japanese colleagues to Newman-Holzman’s particular take on Lev Vygotksy’s tool-and-result methodology. Her keynote discussed  The head taller experience of learning and development, and her practicum/workshop offered a taste of improvisation and improv games to the delight of participants.


Lobman’s visit coincides with the publication of the Japanese translation of Lois Holzman’s text, Vygotsky at Work and Play (Shin-Yo-Sha Publications), which introduces the human development projects generated over the last forty years by New York City’s development community.


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