The Art of Food

October 8, 2012

The arts and food are inextricably linked.  And since I was asked to write on this topic, the links between food and the arts keep appearing around every corner, even more often than usual.  Here are some examples that you will find uncommon, amusing and even fascinating.

My first thought was remembering an exhibit several years ago at the Morris Museum as part of the “Canstruction” movement. Canstruction, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that holds annual design and build competitions to construct fantastic, giant sized, structures made entirely out of canned food.  In each city after the structures are built and the winners declared, the creations go on view to the general public as giant art exhibits.  At the close of the competitions, all of the food used in the structures is donated to the local food banks for distribution to community emergency feeding programs.

Just last month the Livingston Mall hosted the 2012 competition that benefited the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.  This year’s theme was “Back to School” and this entry took the form of the character “Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock on the steps of the US Capitol.

Canstruction Back to School theme

The event donated approximately 26,000 cans of food and raised nearly $4,000 for the Food Bank.

While food is often the main attraction and focal point at gala fundraisers for arts groups around the state, many arts organizations serve as drop off centers for canned goods that are delivered to local food banks and pantries. Conversely, food banks often hold their fundraisers at arts venues.  The Crisis Ministry of Mercer County recently held their benefit at a performance of The Silk Road Ensemble at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. This summer the Asbury Park Jazzfest partnered with Move for Hunger and donors of canned goods were entered into a raffle for a variety of prizes. Volunteers with donation buckets for the Community Food Bank of NJ were omnipresent at last month’s Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Tour shows at the Meadowlands.

A truly unique collaboration that places a focus on food in a totally different way is the upcoming free Fun and Fitness Festival at The Newark Museum on October 27.  The Museum will partner with UMDNJ and Beth Israel Hospital, Montclair State University, the Newark Yoga Movement, the Greater Newark Conservancy and George Street Playhouse to celebrate Family Health Day in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit “Generation Fit:  Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle.” Besides Zumba and Yoga classes, participants will learn about how to make healthy nutritional choices.  Performances of the musical “Austin, the Unstoppable” by George Street Playhouse will be also presented.  The play centers on 11 year old Austin, who is an inactive junk food junkie and faces some life changing diet decisions when he learns his mother has contracted Type II Diabetes.

ArtPride’s facebook friends were quick to point out that talented chefs are committed to artfully plating food, and that food art has been appealing (no pun intended) throughout recorded history from still life paintings to Andy Warhol’s soup can serigraphs.  Both food and art require our senses from smell, to taste, to vision, and hearing (think sizzle!) and they both satisfy human appetites that simultaneously provoke emotional responses.  A marriage made in heaven, on a canvas, or on a plate!

Ann Marie Miller is the Executive Director of Art Pride, the premier arts advocacy organization in New Jersey, and a regular contributor to the Dodge blog

Throughout the month of October, the Dodge blog will feature blog posts related to food issues and food systems in honor of Food Day 2012.

For a complete archive of our food related articles, please click here.

If you are hosting a Food Day event, please let everyone know in the comments section below.