Charlottesville played host the last few days to the second biennial New City Arts Forum, in which art, food and community were discussed as necessary for a flourishing life, community and culture.
The three-day event at The Haven included six panel discussions that delved into art and food’s relationship to topics including ethics, economy, ephemerality and hospitality.
“We decided to gather curators, arts leaders, professors, artists, chefs and farmers to discuss overlapping issues in the art and food world,” said Maureen Brondyke, executive director of New City Arts.
“In order to feel comfortable participating in each conversation, pretend like we’re in your living room and not in an event space,” Brondyke told the audience. “Don’t forget to meet the person sitting next to you.”
About 70 participants formed new relationships, ate local food and took in local art.
One session included a speaker from Indianapolis who discussed how good hospitality can be a means for cultural and community revitalization.
“[The City Gallery] is a resource café where we connect people to culture, community and place,” said Joanna Taft, executive director of the Harrison Center for the Arts. “We’re like the concierge for the city. We connect people to community.”
Taft explained how the City Gallery connects and develops community and contributes to neighborhood revitalization.
“After we started the City Gallery, people felt more welcome and more connected,” Taft said. “Public art began springing up, and buildings began speaking in a new way. Suddenly, everything had a story.”
From left, presenters Kate Daughdrill and Patrick Costello talk about their experiences with art and food alongside moderator Maggie Guggenheimer during the New City Arts Forum Friday at The Haven in downtown Charlottesville.
Photo: Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress
Another session included two artists whose work uses minimal means to create community.
“I lived eight months without a stove or a fridge, and I was fine,” said Kate Daughdrill, a founder of Detroit SOUP and Charlottesville’s Garage. “What do you actually need to live?”
“Part of [Daughdrill’s work] is asking people to slow down and notice,” said Charlottesville arts leader Maggie Guggenheimer.
While the topic of art and food was continually discussed, the forum aimed at addressing how the two topics and community are not an end in and of themselves, but rather tools for human flourishing.
“Creativity should not be held as the ultimate goal,” said Tom Madrecki, a self-taught chef and 2010 graduate of the University of Virginia. “It is a tool that I would, or others would, use to accomplish much more.”
Madrecki’s culinary creativity changes the dining experience into an opportunity for hospitality by inviting people into his home, where he cooks for them and considers their wants, desires and health needs.
“[His work] has been heralded in The Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine, and his parking lot wine bar, Vin De Chez, has been called D.C.’s “most interesting new wine venue,” said moderator and 2012-13 New City Arts artist-in-residence Victoria Long.
Madrecki’s work and that of the many other presenters repeatedly showed how people not only enjoy art and food, but how important art and food are to a good life.
“Art is absolutely necessary for life,” said moderator and UVa professor Joshua Yates.