Last post I talked about the community collaboration potential in underground supper clubs. I think they are one expression of a growing movement that uses food to build community.

Well, it looks like there are actually a few supper clubs in Melbourne and Sydney. A recent article in the Australian, while rather trite, talks about how

Young food-lovers with “restaurant fatigue” are turning to word-of-mouth recommendations – on food blogs, or elsewhere on the internet, usually – to join these secret assignations. We’re talking inner-city folk in their 20s and 30s who are looking to socialise with like-minded people. As one underground diner says, “The food is usually pretty good at these things, but it’s more about community and sharing – sitting next to a stranger and becoming friends over a meal, like it used to be.” I ask if he fears getting stuck next to a loud-mouthed bigot for four hours. “Sure, you’ll have your annoying guest, but most people are cool. They’re interesting and they’ve lived a bit, because the people who seek out these dinners aren’t people who reckon a $10 parmigiana is a top meal – it’s hard [to find them] on purpose.”

Meanwhile, another phenomenon I am observing is in the art scene: the rise of art activism and community driven art projects that involve food. They are hot right now.

In Somerville in Massachussets, a spaghetti dinner and theatre event in May:

Performers included the following artists, thinkers, and doers :

  • Milan Kohout is a member of the Mobius artists’ group. He is a political street performer as well as a visual artist. Originally from the Czech Republic, he now teaches Tufts University and performs in the Boston area.
  • John Bell is a co-founder of the HONK! Festival in Davis Square as well as the NYC-based theater company Great Small Works–as well as a co-organizer of these dinners! He will be taking a historical perspective on the theme, looking at how our relationship to public space and performance in that space has changed over time.
  • kanarinka, a.k.a. Catherine D’Ignazio, an artist and educator, will discuss her project It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston, and examine the role that fear can play in public space, especially in the form of public transport awareness campaigns, terror simulations in public space, and so on.

18 reasons engages the community through food and art. They offer an ongoing programs of wine tastings, art shows, community dinners, food classes and interactive workshops.

In Toronto, Hart House Social Justice Committee, Art Committee and Farm Committee explored the connection through a panel discussion, “From Field to Art: Discussing the Link Between Food, Art and Social Justice.”

Finally, the fallen fruit project, created as part of an artistic collaboration by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young is

Using fruit as our lens, Fallen Fruit investigates urban space, ideas of neighborhood and new forms of located citizenship and community. From protests to proposals for new urban green spaces, we aim to reconfigure the relation between those who have resources and those who do not, to examine the nature of & in the city, and to investigate new, shared forms of land use and property. Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration that began with creating maps of public fruit: the fruit trees growing on or over public property in Los Angeles.

Over time they have expanded. Projects now include:

  • Public Fruit Jams in which we invite the citizens to bring homegrown or public fruit and join in communal jam-making;
  • Nocturnal Fruit Forages, nighttime neighborhood fruit tours;
  • Community Fruit Tree Plantings on the margins of private property and in community gardens;
  • Public Fruit Park proposals in Hollywood, Los Feliz and downtown LA; and
  • Neighborhood Infusions, taking the fruit found on one street and infusing it in alcohol to capture the spirit of the place.

Here’s a good overview of the community garden scene from the Guardian:

Artists are engaging with issues around the environment and society. Suddenly, there is an abundance of projects that seem to be affecting the way America’s cities think about themselves…”What artists do is seed things. They plant ideas,” says Michaela Crimmin, head of the RSA Arts and Ecology Centre. Which maybe explains why these cheap, relatively small-scale projects like Franceschini’s can have such an influence.

Next post I’ll talk about local projects and organisations.