Sunday, September 11, 2011

ReThinking the City

At Urban ReThink, several local activists and organizers were invited to give presentations about how they are helping reshape the city. Each was allowed to show 20 slides for 20 seconds each. John Rife spoke about organic food growers in Orlando. A few years ago there were just 12 organic growers in the organization, at the last meeting there were 150 people. They arranged to sell organic food boxes in Orlando and 400 have been sold to date. Their catch phrase is, "local is lovely". They are helping bring sustainable food products to Central Florida. A public garden is being planned in an empty lot on the corner of Eola and Robinson. On November 19-20 John is hosting the first Harvest Festival in Winter Park. The two day event will focus on celebrating local food and the farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs and non-profits that bring that harvest of their fields to our plates.

After the local presentations, Dawn Silensky was Skyped in from Pittsburgh. She told us about the storefront project. Together with Jon Rubin, Dawn turned an abandoned store into a waffle shop and a mini talk show TV studio. The shop was between two night clubs and they wanted to attract the club kids as costumers. Locals that frequented the waffle shop were interviewed. Dawn is an artist and she said, "conversations are my process and people are my medium." The sales of waffles keep the conversation alive. She feels that culture is a personal thing. An intercontinental dinner party was held where skype projected on a large screen was used to make it seem like Iranians were seated at the same table as the American diners.

A portion of the building seemed to go unused and it was converted into the Conflict Kitchen, which is a walk up restaurant where you order food from countries America is at war with. This walk up window is reinvented every six months featuring another countries cuisine. The food wrappers have commentary about the countries culture, helping start discussion and debate. Each meal is a cultural exchange. Dawn feels art needs to move outside the studio and out into the streets. Food helps facilitate that. Food is something comfortable, something everyone needs. The point that Dawn and all the presenters made clear is that we all can help bring culture home. When you have a vision, just go out and do it. Start small and let the idea grow. Don't over think. Each of us can make a difference.


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