Amber Art presents community meals for SPACES at The Village of Arts and Humanities

At The Village of Arts & Humanities on Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia, the four square blocks of converted row houses and reclaimed parks have been serving as home base for a number of artists and community-minded makers. The SPACES Artist Residency Program, a Knight Arts grantee, has just completed the most recent of its five-month residencies. On October 24, Amber Art & Design filled the outdoor Meditation Park with tables, music and most importantly, food for the culmination of “The Village Table.” A full house for “The Village Table” on October 24 with performers Drumming For Social Change.

They say ‘You are what you eat,’ and the folks at Amber Art & Design wanted to spread the news: eating healthy isn’t only good for you, but it can be a really good time too! The Philadelphia-based art collective comprised of Ernel Martinez, Linda Fernandez, Charles Barbin, Keir Johnston and Willis Humphries decided to turn their creative energies toward of the most important and intimate things shared by people the world over: their food.

By asking local members of the community to submit recipes, the group hoped to get people excited about eating healthy by offering them the chance to participate in the mealtime process. Everyone who shared a recipe was given a ticket to a series of four-course, sit-down dinners at The Village accompanied by energetic music and good company.

Ernel Martinez and others preparing the meal in the kitchen before the event.

Ernel Martinez and others preparing the meal in the kitchen before the event.

Fernandez notes that during their time with SPACES they began to learn that, “introducing really unfamiliar ingredients was off-putting – people would just leave it on the plate. Encouraging and celebrating home cooking was more valuable. If you cook, you have control over what you eat.” With this in mind, the call for recipes allowed participants to really become part of the preparation for the events.

Grilling corn outside of the kitchen at The Village of Arts & Humanities.

Grilling corn outside of the kitchen at The Village of Arts & Humanities.

After collecting the recipes – which will be compiled in an upcoming community cookbook in 2015 – Amber Art remixed the home cooking with nutritious twists with help from nutritionists at the Food Trust. From here, neighborhood children act as volunteer servers, carrying the courses between the kitchen and the park where upcycled tables and chairs full of hungry patrons wait for their entrees with family and friends.

Beneath the lights on their finale evening of October 24, Drumming For Social Change provided a lively percussive soundtrack as the chilly breeze was warded off by hot cider. The meal consisted of cabbage stew appetizers inspired by Kalif Cunningham and garden lasagna inspired by Randy Watson along with sweet potato garlic mash and grilled corn with applesauce gingerbread cake for dessert. Every seat was full despite the brisk fall weather, and the glow of the mosaics mirrored the glow of the surrounding fire pits. No doubt that all in attendance left full and happy, and hopefully informed as well.

Once the warm weather rolls back around, “The Village Table” hopes to continue its mission of bringing nutritious food directly to the community it serves. Also stay tuned for upcoming SPACES projects as part of the ongoing residency initiative courtesy of The Village of Arts & Humanities.

The Village of Arts & Humanities is located at 2544 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia; 215-225-7830;