Local artist creates platform for educating on
By Raymond Jackson
On Sunday, September 14, well-known Twin Cities artist Seitu Jones hosted CREATE: The Community Meal, in St. Paul. The event, which featured a half-mile long dining table serving 2,000 participants, took place in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. It was Jones’ artistic way to help build healthy neighborhoods.
The dining table was placed down the center of Victoria St., from University Ave. to Minnehaha Ave. Volunteer Jane Wolden explained her involvement in the event: “This is a big part of my volunteer life as a master gardener. I have spent 16 years trying to educate people on how to grow food. Now, this is the other end of it — preparing it, eating it and having a healthy meal — and that is what led me to today’s festivities.
“One of the things that has really impressed me are the dinner placemats. They are developed from a course weed herb called burdock that grows in the alleys. They take the burdock, tear it up and mix it with water in a [food] processor, then [it is] poured over screens and allowed to dry. Volunteers then cut them down to the proper size and
made 2,000 of these beautiful placemats, which we encourage the guests to take with them at the end of their dinner.”
This event, focusing on examining food issues, healthy eating and living with positive social interaction and exchange, was funded by The Joyce Foundation of Chicago and locally engineered by Public Art of St. Paul and a collaborative of artists of color. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman was also in attendance.
When asked how long he has been involved, David Hlavac, public relations officer for Public Art of St. Paul, answered, “I have been working with this project for the past four months, but the project itself has been in the works much longer. This is primarily the vision of Mr. Seitu Jones. While working and living here in the Frogtown community, he noticed many of his neighbors shopping for their meals at local convenience stores, and he thought there has to be a better way to educate others about eating whole foods and cooking at home.
“So he came up with this idea, of bringing the community together, to break bread and have a meal, and talk about food justice and healthy eating for urban communities. He envisioned this as a living piece of public art work.”
“The starting bell I am getting ready to ring is very important and it is made by another Twin Cities artist, Mr. Bill Jeter,” Jones explained before ringing the dinner bell. Jones, known for many years as a visual artist in the Twin Cities, explained his motivation for the project.
“This whole concept evolved from this crazy idea that was birthed out of food justice and food equity,” Jones said. “All of those are issues that affected me and really helped in forming this whole project. I was seeing endless lines of people shopping for food at the corner grocery stores, and that is not a good source for healthy eating. When you look a little closer at the food in those bags, you find that it is all processed. So, I wanted to come up with ways that would give people better options.
“All of the food here today is locally grown. Some of those farmers are sitting right here at the table with us, including a group located a couple of blocks away. One of the legacies of this is [the] continuation with a series of small dinners, and encouraging people to do this in their neighborhoods, on their blocks, with their neighbors.”
Raymond Jackson welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.