Annual Community Table Event Infuses Art with Food While Celebrating Health and Prosperity Within the Community
Friday, October 11, 2019
PROVIDENCE, RI – Art, Culture + Tourism (ACT) Director Stephanie Fortunato joined Healthy Communities Director Ellen Cynar, Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island (SCCRI), the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s (WEHDC) Sankofa Initiative and the African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI) for Providence Community Table, a free, family-friendly celebration of art, food, health, and prosperity in our neighborhoods. The event will feature storytelling and performance from Valerie Tutson, the Rhode Island Black Storytellers, Vatic Kuumba and Laura Brown-Lavoie, temporary installations from Shey Rivera Rios and Kei Soares Cobb, and a delicious meal prepared by four neighborhood chefs.
“It is our job as a city to bring people together and create a sense of community for our residents,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “We’re doing just that, with events like this community table event, where hundreds will gather to appreciate experience and exchange traditions all the while enjoying the culinary culture that Providence is best known for.”
The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism has organized a Community Table for the past two years as part of its seasonal public programming. This year’s event is a collaboration between the partners who have worked together for the past three years to develop and implement the Sowing Place Initiative, a City-led coalition that empowers communities, vendors, and artists of color to build a strong, inclusive local cultural economy and a resilient local food system.
“Through our Kresge FreshLo-funded Sowing Place initiative, ACT has helped foster vibrant neighborhood connections on the Southside and in the West End,” remarked Stephanie Fortunato, Director of Art, Culture + Tourism. “Community-driven creative placemaking projects spearheaded by AARI, WEHDC/Sankofa, and SCCRI have helped professionalize new cultural entrepreneurs by making connections between food access and art while promoting expansive visions for health and well-being.”
The 2019 Community Table event will bring together four local chefs of color from different culinary traditions at West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s community kitchen to create a meal for 200 people at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island. The event will also feature public art, poetry, storytelling, and family-friendly activities.
In spring 2016, the Kresge Foundation awarded the City of Providence and its partners $75,000 through Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization (FreshLo) to design neighborhood-scale projects demonstrating creative, cross-sector visions of food-oriented development. Providence Art, Culture + Tourism and the Healthy Communities Office led the collaborative, which worked to hire a team of artist-facilitators to guide the planning process. Laura Brown-Lavoie (also a farmer) and Vatic Kuumba are both award-winning poets with strong ties to the project neighborhoods. They came on board to use the arts to support and encourage project managers to think in new and exciting ways.
In 2017, the City and its partners received an additional $200,000 to fund implementation activities. The collaborative has since supported curated arts activities at the Sankofa Market—pop-up markets organized by the African Alliance of Rhode Island—and a series of signature events at the Southside Cultural Center. These events include; monthly marketplaces in summer 2018, the annual Cultural Extravaganza and holiday market, 2019 Community Flavors, and small-scale community dinners imbued with storytelling.
“Sowing Place has been a journey in boosting neighborhood spirits…connecting people to the arts and food experiences has been a pathway to enhance public health, public safety and public awareness of the many contributions of folks from all ways of life to the vibrant pulse that makes Providence the Creative Capital of the world, ” added Ramona Bass-Kolobe, Sowing Place Advisor.
Now nearing the end of its second implementation year, the City and its Sowing Place partners are working to foster opportunities for vendors to expand their operations. Providence growers interested in cooking, catering opportunities, or developing value-add products are encouraged to use the newly opened Sankofa commercial kitchen. Caterers providing meals at Community Flavors will have a chance to experiment in the newly-finished space and share their culinary creations with event participants. Neighborhood-based and art vendors are encouraged to sell goods at the annual Cultural Extravaganza.
About Sowing Place:
Sowing Place is a creative placemaking initiative organized by the Department of Art, Culture + Tourism in partnership with the Providence Healthy Communities Office, the African Alliance of Rhode Island, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s Sankofa Initiative, and Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island. Facilitated by Providence-based poets Vatic Kuumba and Laura Brown-Lavoie, the program supports a unique set of food and arts events and an expansive perspective of health and well-being. Our collaboration centers communities, vendors, and artists of color to build a strong, inclusive local cultural economy and a resilient local food system. Working as a team of municipal workers, artists, and farmers, members of the Sowing Place team share bread, poetry, and consensus engage in organizing with the aim reimagining the way the City works in relationship with community partners, one project at a time.
About African Alliance of Rhode Island:
The African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to improving the lives of African living in the state of Rhode Island. AARI seeks to promote and celebrate the African culture while tackling the challenges facing the African communities in Rhode Island. Through Sowing Place, AARI celebrated food, art, and culture through their Pop-Up Farmers Markets throughout South Providence.
About Sankofa World Market:
Sankofa World Market (WEHDC’s farmer’s market) is a weekly celebration of food, community and culture of the West End. Sankofa World Market offers fresh, locally grown produce, prepared food, hand-made goods, weekly live music, cooking demonstrations, and more. Sankofa Market highlights specialty crops from our diverse mix of growers such as; bitter ball, bitter melon, sweet potato greens, bitter leaf, luffa, Asian corn, amaranth, water spinach, long beans, melons, and much more. Shoppers at Sankofa World Market can use their SNAP/EBT and WIC to purchase fresh produce. The Sowing Place Arts Curator, housed at SCCRI, will curate art and performance at this season’s markets. The Sankofa Market happens every Wednesday from June 19, 2019 – October 31, 2019 from 2-6pm at the Knight Memorial Library.
About Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island:
Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island connects, cultivates and engages the community through the arts. We envision a vibrant, connected community engaged in discovering, exploring, and creating art, that nurtures the voices of artists of color and cultivates leaders who lift up our people. Community Flavors, produced by Rhode Island Black Storytellers and hosted by Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, brings together storytellers and neighbors for meals prepared by local caterers and culinary entrepreneurs.