Monday, August 29, 2011

SNEAK PEEK! New University YMCA Website

It's not just a pretty face... the new website has got some smart new features to make everything easier for you! Read about it below and get ready to visit the website in just about a week!

***NOTE: Our website will be under construction this week and therefore may be down at times. Please email Jenni at or call the Y at 217-337-1500 if you need help!


There's a fancy new photo slideshow on the front page. All of our photos now link to our unlimited pro Flickr page so you can download pictures for free! In fact, the Y has been digitizing our photo collection extensively this summer. We are asking for your help to identify people, places, and dates. So go ahead and explore... add a comment to a photo if you have some information. You can even order prints. (Alternately, if you see a picture of yourself on the website or on Flickr and would like to have it removed, just contact us and we’ll take care of it.)

Google forms and calendars minimize the need for downloading pdfs. Information is available more quickly and the format is more user-friendly. Each Y program is associated with a Google Calendar. You can add a series of events to your own Google Calendar by clicking on “Add to your google calendar” or just check online anytime. The most comprehensive of these is our Events Calendar, but they will also be available for Friday Forum and Global Lens. 

Student groups can recruit volunteers and request donations from family and friends using PayPal. Although we still prefer that larger donations of $25 or more, including memberships and contributions to our annual fund, will go through our Support Us page, PayPal is a convenient way for student groups to garner support from family and friends. Anyone with a PayPal account can donate an amount of their choosing. Because we’re a non-profit, PayPal only deducts thirty cents and 2.2% from each transaction.

Our Employment and Volunteering page has been revamped and is ready for student programs to submit requests for volunteers. This is a good place to get information out. Let us know what the event is, how long you’ll be recruiting, and what volunteers will be doing.  

Our news feed links directly to this blog. If something interesting is going on or there is a news event at the Y, we can include it in our blog. Right now, Jenni and Kasey are the main authors, but any student group can submit a narrative and photos.

The Y has started an oral history project called “Telling Stories.” Right now, we’re featuring three students and a former Y staff member who recently passed away. You can listen to these audio documentaries streaming online or download them for free. If you’d like to tell your story, contact Jenni at  

There's much more to come. Give us your feedback and help us keep the website up to date. 

Special Thanks to:
Paul Young, Electric Pictures
Mike Stephens, YMCA Alum
for their talent and generosity in designing this site.

EMAIL: with your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Art @ the Y Trivia: What does a Boyscout ‘Treehouse’ have to do with Astronauts?

Only Denny Anderson knew the answer to that question before he spoke at his Art @ the Y exhibition opening. If you're curious about why a treehouse has become an art exhibition, just wait until you come to the Y and see what he has built with the help of his troop and many volunteer. Simply stated, it’s a work of art.

The Treehouse, also called ‘Green 17’ after the troop that built it, is located at Camp Drake. It’s a four season, 15 bunk, 400 square foot piece of heaven. Quite literally, its green efficiency was can be equated to the earth itself. Every aspect of the treehouse’s construction was informed by the three things that sustain life in the face of cold space and the hot sun: Mass, Glass, and Insulation.

Answer: Mass, Glass, and Insulation

Day-to-night and seasonally, the Earth insulates life. Our atmosphere and the mass of the planet keep temperatures from changing as extremely as they do in space. For instance, Denny informed the crowd that astronauts are subject to temperatures changing between -200 degrees while hidden from the sun and +200 degrees in the light of the sun. Fortunately, the insulating qualities of the earth can be applied to spaceships... and houses!

Unfortunately, as Denny is quick to point out, we are practically divorced from our environment, especially in the way we construct houses. In ancient times, people knew that because things get coldest just before dawn, it’s best to have windows pointed not due south, but 15 degrees east toward the morning sun to take advantage of the first warmth from the rising sun.

“This isn’t PhD work,” Denny remarks, “this is the environment.”

The cabin he has built is so super-insulated that even in the dead of winter it doesn’t need a furnace.

When the home inspectors asked him, “What’s your heat source?” Denny replied, “Boys.”

Because his ceiling is R-100, walls are R-60, and floors are R-40 (three times the normal insulation installed in a house), only 1 BTU is needed to heat the entire place to a comfortable temperature. 15 boyscouts provide a good deal more than 1 BTU of heat.

“But what about in the summertime?” asked a member of the audience, “15 boys also produce a lot of heat when it’s hot out...”

Denny answered, “The easiest way to keep a building cool is not to let it get hot.”

He described the treehouse’s ventilation system, equipped with a radiant attic barrier, vented from top to bottom and cooled through ridge vents. The air conditioning system is also composed of screens and shade. One mature oak is equivalent to 10 tons of A/C and the structure is built solidly among and between tall trees. The best way to keep a place cool in the summer is to open it up at night and close it during the day. If it’s insulated properly, that’s the coolest way to be. In that way, Denny compares modern construction to motorboats, when really we should be building houses more like sailboats, as he has done.

How it was built

Serendipitously. And with great skill. And with a ton of eager volunteers.

At every turn, Denny encountered just what he was looking for at 90% off or donated by a vendor who said “I don’t really know why we kept this around, but you can have it,” and then handed over a well-insulated window or door that fit the cabin perfectly.

On the other hand, what Denny calls serendipity also appears to be shrewd and persistent sense for what local vendors can provide if you know what to ask for. He got a thousand dollar granite cooktop for free because it was cracked. He cut a hole in it, put in a cutting board, and now it’s ready to be a home for propane-powered boyscout cookstoves. But largely, Denny is incredibly grateful for the generosity of all those people who gave materials and discounts, helping to make the construction possible.

Apparently, it was a heck of a lot of fun to build too! Denny says, “Volunteers would call on a Thursday to see if they could help out over the weekend.” Scouting is supposed to be fun, “and you can’t even say ‘treehouse’ without having some fun.”

The skill of the construction and adaptability demonstrated in the use of assorted materials can really only be understood by visiting the cabin or coming by the Y to check out all the photos and materials we have on exhibition. It’s worth a trip.

“I see this as a live-in laboratory, not just for kids but for the adults who come in there.”
Denny laughs and tells us that “even the carmudgeons will say ‘Can I go out to the balcony?’”

The boys who go through the cabin for a week or a weekend come out with a totally different perspective on green building and having a lifestyle that works hand in hand with the environment around us. It’s wheelchair accessible from one side, so really anyone can experience what the treehouse has to offer, and should.

After all, as Denny says, “You get more education by living in it than reading about it.”

What next?

Denny wants other people to build treehouses that also become platforms for learning (and fun). He describes the possibilities, “My hope is that other individuals and units will get involved and do treehouses... I can see them doing a Mirror House that is impossible to find without directions, or an Ewok Village - there’s no limit.”

EXHIBITION OPEN UNTIL OCTOBER 5TH, 2011. M-F 9am-5pm . Murphy Gallery

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Telling Stories: Remembering Ed Nestingen

"Telling Stories" is a new oral history project that is beginning to unravel and explore the rich history of the University YMCA. We're also preserving current history by recording interviews with current Y members, such as student leaders, donors, and staff.

Now, Ed Nestingen, who passed away in February 2011, is memorialized as his life is explored in a two-part Telling Stories episode:

In this episode Jenni Kotting interviews Tom Seals and Becca Guyette, share about Ed - his life, his history at the Y, and some of the struggles that came along with how those two things overlapped. 

Music included in parts 1 and 2 of this non-profit audio documentary: 
Django Reinhardt - Minor Swing
Sufjan Stevens - Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL
Sufjan Stevens - Let’s Hear that String Part Again
Sufjan Stevens - In This Temple As In The Hearts Of Manm For Whom He...
Sigur Ros - Samkeyti
Bob Dylan - Oh, Sister (Hard Rain)
Arvo Pärt - Spiegel Im Spiegel
Erik Satie - 3me Gymnopedie. Lent et grave
The Rachels - Tea Merchants

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Newest Art @ the Y Exhibit!

Off-the-Grid Art Opens at the University YMCA:

Denny Anderson’s ‘The Treehouse: Recycled, Repurposed, Reimagined’

See more photos in our Flickr Photoset.

Exhibition Opening
Monday, August 25, 5:00-7:00pm

Presentation by Denny Anderson at 5:30pm
Murphy Gallery @ the Y

Designer, builder and Scoutmaster, Denny Anderson has created a living laboratory of green construction and technology for the Boy Scouts of Camp Drake. His treehouse cabin is built from cast off, donated, reused or repurposed materials and is powered by a passive solar system with a bicycle back-up.

The triangular cabin is built at the edge of a ravine with one of the three cantilevering points touching ground level to provide wheelchair access. Fifteen bunk beds, a loft, food prep and storage spaces provide a compact functional space. Area Boy Scouts will soon be learning about more than knots, tents and campfire building.

This exhibition will be open at the University YMCA from August 19th through early October. Images, blueprints, and materials on display guide visitors through the design and construction of the completely off-the-grid sustainable project that will help to school a new generation of environmentally aware, active and competent young people.

For more information:

University YMCA, 1001 South Wright Street, Champaign
Exhibition sponsored by: Art @ the Y, an initiative of the University YMCA.

Contact: Ann Rasmus,, 217-337-1500