You Art What You Eat: LA Art Museum Collaborates with Food Collective

tomato hootenanny image

Edible Art: Tomato Hootenanny at LA County Museum of Art. Image courtesy of Fallen Fruit

Yesterday I adopted a Zebra Heart tomato seedling at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's "Tomato Hootenanny," one of several seasonal events the museum is mounting all year in collaboration with the art collective, Fallen Fruit. The museum's effort, called Eat LACMA, examines the relationship between food, art, culture, and politics, with a delectable view of edible environmental art. You can submit a video this week for selection in the "Show Us How You Eat" installation of the museum's upcoming exhibition:

tomato seedlings photo

Tomato seedlings in newspaper pots. Photo by JS patchwork

A great showing of hundreds came for the seedlings. As the Triple Chicken Foot band played, volunteers addressed the importance of planting heirloom seeds and showed how to make handmade newspaper pots. It was part of the Mortgage Lifter Tomato Workshop with artists Anne Hars and Stephanie Allespach, inspired by a Great Depression story about "Radiator Charlie," who developed a gigantic tomato and sold so many seedlings at $1 each that he paid his mortgage of $6,000. His seedlings, known as Mortgage Lifters, produced enough tomatoes to feed a family of six.

Artists gardens, a public fruit jam-making session, an art exhibition, and more will unfold through November at the LA County Art Museum (LACMA). You can participate in the "Show Us How You Eat" project to be part of the show, "Fallen Fruit Presents The Fruit of LACMA" (June 27-November 7). Checkout submissions and upload your videos on YouTube for consideration. Fallen Fruit's description: "We want to see you eat. Chomp, gnaw, nosh, dine, feast, nibble, consume, swallow, ingest, devour, munch, gobble up, pig out, chow down and polish off some food." The museum's exhibition will also cull from its permanent collection with art works that focus on food's social role in art, ritual, community, and human relationships.

It all launched in February with a Fruit Foraging Tour (see video above) of a Los Angeles neighborhood, following a Public Fruit Map (also available for San Francisco, Sante Fe and other locales, downloadable and free). With fruit pickers in hand, the group walked streets to find loquats, oranges and guava hanging off trees in the legal grey zone over sidewalks. Fallen Fruit maintains this is public space and therefore ripe for the picking. The activist artists, David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young, seek "liberty through public fruit," wanting us to investigate our relationship with food and neighborhoods: "Fruit trees are often residents of a city long after people are gone."


Eat LACMA culminates all-day on November 7 with more than fifty artists re-imagining the museum's campus and galleries, curated by Fallen Fruit with LA County's Museum of Art curator Michele Urton. One of eight artists' gardens being planted and harvested on the museum's grounds is an elegant Bamboo Trellis erected near the Japanese Pavilion. Also coming up are other free activities and lectures exploring environmentalism, healthy living and sustainable agriculture, and how these issues relate to our lives:
- "Plant the Perimeter" fruit tree giveaway to beautify and empower neighborhoods
- "Online Community Resource Center" provides tools and advice about growing food
- "Salsa Salsa" for salsa-making and dancing

I'll bring figs from the overabundant tree in my yard to the Public Fruit Jam and look forward to my Zebra Heart seedling producing lots of green tomatoes with yellow stripes and red centers. I'll be sure to save the seeds.

More on sustainable gardens:
Incredible Edible: How To Make Your Town Self-sufficient
7 Reasons Why You Should Grow Your Own Food
Community Fruit Harvesting: not far from the tree

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