A research and community engagement art practice, my course, Social Kitchen: Ceramics, Food and Community, involving students, local practitioners and activists, aims to elevate awareness about food insecurity issues. I formulated a multi-disciplinary workshop-based structure in which students and community members, on one hand, can learn together and discuss poverty, agro-industrial food systems and food justice through research, and on the other hand, can perform to support impoverished local population of the town of Bennington by creating ceramic bowls for fundraising and by serving and sharing food to inspire rigorous dialogue about food justice through conviviality. I hoped for a synergetic approach that gives an alternative door for a new and inclusive discussion and that makes communal, civic or intellectual impact though the filter of art making practices.

Project Goals:
To bring together different/diverse groups of people in partnership and cultivate a lasting relationship across Bennington region and College communities through learning craft and sharing meal.

1. For students:
– To create a platform for Bennington students to actively engage with the members of community organizations and local groups of Bennington county through a creative collaboration.
– To enhance interactive experiences through direct dialog and skill sharing between students and local activists / residents.
– To raise awareness of the local food insecurity issues.
– To learn about the local food distribution / healthy food choice initiatives such as Kitchen Cupboard of Food and Fuel Program and explore how to include ceramic practice in the revitalization process, considering history (Bennington Pottery), aesthetics and functionality in the table setting.
– To examine contemporary socially engaged art practices with criticality that students can further develop adequate models of engagement for future iterations of the Empty Bowls project.
– To engage with ethical issues that are inherent in community based practices (for example: photography or video documentations / managing social media / press / interviews, etc.).

2. For Community:
– To establish a supportive environment where Bennington community participants can meaningfully engage with students in activities centered on their community’s resources. These will include discussions, presentations, ceramic production, glazing and firing efforts, public events.
– To help organize, promote and contribute to the community partner’s fund-raising events beyond volunteer tasks.
– To provide an opportunity for local young people to apprentice with ceramic practitioners (faculty/technician/advanced students/visiting artists), learning skills and studio work ethics through this collaborative production processes.
– To collectively create a unique model of a partnership that involves creative intervention through craft, culinary experience, nutritional training, and food sovereignty mentorship between an academic institution [Bennington College] and a local community group. This is expected to generate support from various public and private foundations, businesses, etc. successfully in the future.
– To provide the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services with high quality documentation of the event for use in their organization’s promotion (i.e. for press, marketing, etc.).

Research Team: Yoko Inoue

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