The latest public art project in Portland will link the power of art, the power of food and the good that happens when both are mixed thoughtfully together.
Daniel Minter will introduce his colorful, totemic sculpture “Mother’s Garden” at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fox Field, at Anderson and Fox streets in East Bayside. The five 10-foot-tall wooden pieces, which were completed during a community painting day in early June, address the cultural traditions and are symbolic of the food of the African diaspora and recent immigrants to Portland. His outdoor sculpture is part of a larger art project called “Welcome Feast” hosted by TEMPOart, a Portland arts group that places temporary art in public spaces across the city.
“Welcome Feast” will engage in the process of culinary diplomacy, which explores the use of food to promote cooperation, understanding and peace. “Welcome Feast” will convene a series of outdoor community meals at the site of Minter’s installation, pairing chefs from across cultural traditions to create a fusion of food for 60 to 70 people at a time. Each menu will be planned and executed by new Mainer chefs and chefs from Portland’s established food community. “The idea is bringing diverse people together around food,” said Alice Spencer, a TEMPOart board member. “We are inviting old Mainers and new Mainers to attend, in equal numbers.”
Three meals are planned:
5 p.m. June 26, with chefs Niky Watler and Martha Leonard of Maiz, which specializes in food of the Caribbean, and Chris Deutsch of Belleville, a bakery with French roots.
5 p.m. July 17, with Ruweda Ali and Farhiya Mohamed working with Ilma Lopez of Piccolo and Chaval.
5 p.m. Aug. 14, with Sharifa and Nazia Shir, working with Lauren Gibson of Luke’s Lobster.
Marked with images of food from around the world and shaped in human form, Minter’s decorated figures stand as symbolic and spiritual sentries for the meal, Spencer said. The project will extend beyond the meals and whatever goodwill comes from them. TEMPOart is working with Oak Street Studios, Mayo Street Arts and Love Lab Studios to present programs for kids in art, writing and food, and writers from the Telling Room will write poetry that will be read at the meals.
“We’re also planning a cookbook that will include the recipes from the meals, as well as some of the art and writing from the workshops,” Spencer said. “That is a tangible way to keep the notion of creating these relationships alive in people’s kitchens all over town.”
Minter’s sculpture will be on view for a year. Spencer described the site of the installation and meals as “a cauldron of ferment” of arts and community activity, with the recent openings of Cove Street Arts, Indigo Arts Alliance – of which Minter is a co-founder – and a high-energy level of activity among brewers, roasters and artists. East Bayside is home to many members of Portland’s immigrant population, as well. “It’s the right site to have this going on,” she said. “That part of town is symbolic of what we are trying to do and who we are trying to bring together.”
TEMPOart is planing the project in coordination with World to Table and Portland Trails.
WHERE: Fox Field, Fox and Anderson streets, Portland
WHEN: Opening reception, 6 p.m. Saturday, June 15
COMMUNITY MEALS: 6 p.m. June 26, 6 p.m. July 17 and 6 p.m. Aug. 15. The meals are free but guests must enter a lottery to secure a place at the table.