Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Digesting Food Con II @ The Harrison Center

The second annual Harrison Center for the Arts Food Con has been consumed, processed, and has left me energetic.  I love this city.  Over the course of a couple of years, we've witnessed a growing awareness around producing and consuming food in the city.  The popularity of community gardens, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), food trucks, and craft beer seems to be growing at a fervent pace.  Smart move by the Harrison Center for recognizing this and planning a well organized and informative event around the phenomena.   The center's Food Con II built upon the relative success of Food Con I and used their September First Friday to celebrate all things food related.  From my vantage point, here's a quick run down of the evening.
The 'front door' to Food Con II

Truck Farm Indy (that's Mayor Ballard to the left)
The Vendors | The core experience of Food Con II was the tent erected in the Harrison Center's front courtyard.  Your usual suspects were present including local co-op Pogue's Run Grocer, farmer's markets like the 38th Street Farmer's Market (celebrating 11 years of service), the Loft at Trader's Point, and one of Indy's newest urban food projects, Fall Creek Gardens.  A few people were also there showcasing their chicken runs and there was even someone there with goats.  I talked to a guy named Andy Cochran (andycochran437 at selling rain barrels for $80, installation included.   I spent five minutes talking to representatives from the Indiana Beekeeping school that were lobbying hard to get a hive in my backyard.  Stay tuned for that.  It was a decent cross-section of different gardening, food, and urban farming related organizations eager to get the word out for their respective causes.

No, we are not getting a goat
The Food Trucks | I can't talk about Food Con II without taking a moment to comment on the legion of food trucks present.  I wonder what the saturation point is for food trucks in a city like Indianapolis because I think we see it on the horizon. That being said, I see this as a good problem for the city.  I just hope that whomever survives any 'market correction' in the local food truck game still provides (somewhat overpriced) healthy and delicious fare.
Sausage Meatball sandwich - Scratch Truck
Pint of Osiris - Sun King

A lot of food on four wheels
Sun King has a knack for being at the right places in Indy to quench a thirst.  The IMA summer movie series? check.  Victory Field to watch the Indianapolis Indians? check.  Food Con II? check.  The good news was that the crowd ran them dry.  This sends a great message to the fine folks at Sun King Brewery regarding the Harrison Center crowd's demand for their fine craft beer.

The Art | The weak link in Food Con II was, ironically, the art installations.  I get the idea of educating people on the different climate types and the (ever diminishing) bio-diversity on our planet.  However, the themed art installations (in Gallery 1 as well as the gym) missed the mark with a subtle scope misstep.  It only takes a passing glance at the booths and vendors present at Food Con II to understand that this whole thing, this whole movement, is about all things local, local, local.  I would have been happy to see these art galleries give me something about food produced in the Hoosier state or even presented a narrative about Midwest food.

Also, I'll be the first to tell you that the art critic in me is an un-educated, small minded person who asks himself all too often, "That's considered art?"  So I wasn't surprised to see a number of themed pieces evoke such little emotion from me. Now that's not say the various 'wall' art displayed in main gallery was not interesting or did not support the event's theme.  I just walked out of the gym and the main gallery scratching my head and feeling a little underwhelmed.  Oh well, there's always next year.

The Social Construction of Eating | I've been categorized as the 'over-educated' in some of my closest social circles.  As I think about this final section, I can see where they're coming from.  The social construction of eating?  What the hell does that even mean!? In short, the act of consuming food is something that we perform socially.  When we eat, we use family customs, rules set by our particular location, community traditions, and so on.  We use these guidelines to choose what to eat, how we consume it, as well as the 'when' and 'where' of how we eat.

The Harrison Center's new public space is appreciated and well positioned
We create rules for ourselves and allow others to impose rules regarding these who, what, where, and hows.  I enjoy Food Con II as I get to see first hand how a few socio-economic groups think about food and its consumption.  Anecdotally speaking, Food Con II showcases the social construction of eating by predominantly Caucasian males and females with some degree of affluence.  I don't want to negatively spin this event, but if we are to institutionalize healthy eating habits,  these perceived economic barriers must be addressed.

I absolutely love this gymnasium 
That being said, participants at Food Con II celebrated all things local.  We created a space (or market) for hipster, transient food served directly out of a truck.  We emphasized organic food grown as close to our kitchens as possible and thereby shunned the economies of scale present in large chain groceries and big box stores.  That is, we built and reinforced a strong desire to avoid factory farms and the corporatism in the food supply chain.  We held in high regard, the production of food in what's perceived as an economically inefficient production and distribution process.     As alluded to above, what was missing in this social construction of eating was a discussion around local, healthy food option adoption by the poor and the rural lower/middle class. This ought to be a discussion this social group should embrace as it will facilitate the creation of new social circles and relationships amongst neighbors.  It also translates to higher demand for local farmers and producers. I'm still a relative novice at social construction theory but see its utility and appreciate its applied, problem solving nature.  This is a topic I feel compelled to wax poetic about for some time to come.  You have been warned!       

Studio AMF working the crowd outside of Gallery 2

 To sum up the evening, I socialized with a lot of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and politicians enjoying a wonderful Friday evening in a wonderful city.  It was an inspiring evening and it is exciting to see these events, the people who make it happen, and the people attending all take a moment to think about what they eat, how they eat it, and where their food originates. 

Update: It appears that I was mistaken about the scope of the art installations in the main gallery.  They were referring to different food related social phenomena.  Still, the exhibit's execution was a bit muddled, in my humble opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Aahhh, I hate that I missed this! Loved reading your thoughts about it and very jealous of your sausage meatball sandwich...