Earth to Table: A Benefit Sale in Support of Hope Farm at Stenton Family Manor

Oct 1st - Oct 31st, 2010

Hunger, Philadelphia is a site-specific, three-phase project. Calling attention to need as an under-discussed issue in society, the Hunger project juxtaposes plenty with quality, immediate gratification with sustainability. It examines hunger from a global perspective while responding and contributing to the local community hosting its art-exhibition phase

I.) During the initial stage of the project, J.J. McCracken spent the summer (2009) as Guest Artist-In-Residence at The Clay Studio in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia. The artist volunteered at food distribution centers and homeless shelters across the city, exploring Philadelphia’s grassroots response to hunger.

II.) Phase two of the project included a solo exhibition curated by New York art critic John Perreault and commissioned by The Clay Studio, in support of the 44th Annual National Counci on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference (held in Philadelphia from March 31–April 3, 2010). The artist engaged all three floors of the space, building an installation activated by live bodies, sound, smell, and taste that completely immersed the viewer in a multi-sensory art-experience. Hunger, Philadelphia, the exhibition, used geophagy (clay-eating) as a launching point for a visual poem about need. During the exhibition, clay-covered models moved through an arid, monochromatic landscape eating clay casts of fruits and vegetables. The excessive consumption of a visually bountiful but non-nutritive food substitute is central to the main idea of the project. Juxtaposed against this, the upper floor of the space housed a fully functioning garden built in waist-high, mobile units that reflected Philadelphia’s very progressive urban farming movement. At the close of the exhibition, the garden was donated to Stenton Family Manor, a homeless shelter for families in northwest Philadelphia.

III.) In the months following the exhibition, J.J. McCracken recycled materials—especially the two tons of clay used in its installation. All clay was originally dug for the project from the local region (donated by Emlyn Stancill Whitin and Terry Stancill of Stancill’s quarry) and is now being sent back out into the same community in a new form: some has been used to build a bread oven at Stenton Manor, and some has been made into dinnerware by the artist, to serve/eat food. Children living at Stenton have been joined by other children in the region, drawing on plates made from Hunger, Philadelphia clay. Earth To Table showcases those drawings while raising funding in support of the Hope Farm at Stenton Manor. The Hope Farm was built by Weavers Way Community Programs and is the shelter’s sole source of fresh produce in a struggling urban neighborhood. The impact of purchasing a drawing/plate is twofold: this fundraiser helps improve the quality of food served at the shelter, as well as the Hope Farm’s programs that enrich the lives of resident children (and especially their shelter experience) by teaching them about growing their own food.