Through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I am working with other students on sustainable art and design projects within communities on the West Side of Chicago. We are working with Communitree, a collaboration between Cob Connection and OAI, which is building an urban farm on an empty lot on Kedzie Avenue. The lot will provide job training for youth from the community involved with the project, as well as access to fresh, locally grown food for people who live in the neighborhood. I am excited to take part in this initiative and as an artist with a strong interest in empowerment through do-it-yourself skills, I hope to be instrumental in strengthening the local community.
For the 407 Kedzie Avenue lot, I propose to construct a mobile kitchen and washing station that will function not only as a place for culinary preparation of the food grown on the lot, but also as a site for education and community gathering. Gardeners and farmers will be able to use the washing station to prepare their produce for cooking or selling. Community volunteers and school teachers will be able to use this mobile station for demonstrating techniques for preparing healthy meals. The kitchen will be a place of community gathering on the farm – a place for gardeners to rest and have a cold drink, or for communal dinners to be cooked by local residents from produce grown on the farm. The wash station provides space to rinse and prepare food and to store washing equipment, such as wash tubs and water buckets.
On the West Side of Chicago, many people do not have regular access to fresh food, nor the knowledge of how to utilize fresh food when it is available. Nita Gamble, a local resident and leader in the community, has made it clear that the community is in need of fresh produce. The kitchen will provide a space for demonstrating how to prepare this produce in a healthy, tasty, and simple manner. Youth and adults can learn and teach each other about basic food utilization skills, such as cooking every day meals, as well as allow them to further explore how the food from the farm can be used to make value-added products that can be sold at farmer’s markets to generate income for the neighborhood.
This kitchen will consist of two simple units constructed of cabinets and countertops. The idea of the kitchen is that it can be compact and simple, yet fully functional. It will have the important elements of a kitchen: stove burners, sink, storage space, and utensils. During the day, these facilities will be available to the public and those working on the farm. At night when the kitchen is not being utilized, the equipment can be stored in the cabinets. This is valuable equipment, so it is important that it can be secured at night. The units will live underneath a picnic area-type roof structure, where they can be secured and protected from weathering, but also be mobile when they need to travel.
The kitchen will be installed on a corner of the lot near the street so that it is accessible to both the farm and those working on it as well as passers-by. It will be constructed throughout May and the installation will be complete in early summer.