The following guest post was written by Amy Stouffer, the Nebraska City-based e-communication specialist and web content manager for Arbor Day Farm.
Omaha’s 36th street bridge drew an eclectic crowd on Sunday afternoon — one of artists, foodies, locavores, and people just fortunate enough to score tickets to one of Omaha’s coolest food-meets-art events, called Elevate.
The event was the brainchild of Emerging Terrain, an Omaha non-profit that, in their own words, “uses whatever we can – exhibits, installations, paintings, feasts – to get people to think about and really see our environment. At Emerging Terrain, every project starts with the same questions – what story have we written on our landscape? And what more do we want to say?”
Judging by the chef and artist collaborations on the bridge, there’s plenty more to say.
- Burlap bags filled with mini-gardens, suspended from cables high above.
- A tabletop skateboard-on-a-pulley-system that delivers tasty food to eager diners.
- A 20-foot table etched with names and addresses of people displaced by the construction of Interstate 80 through Omaha in the 1950s and 1960s.
Lied Lodge’s Chef Matthew Taylor teamed up with two artists, Bob Trempe of Philadelphia and Brian Hamilton of Omaha, to bring about their food-and-art station, entitled to-g(R)o. In concept, the design centered around physical changes to a landscape over time as a space becomes forested, colonized, deforested, and otherwise changed as a society develops. In practice, the display looked like 3-D rolling hills of corrugated cardboard, with tree seedlings and cones of food tucked into the cells between sections.
(Ed. note: Chef Taylor and his team were also featured in the Omaha World-Herald’s photo gallery here).
“Our exhibit today recognizes that as people come into a space,” said Chef Taylor, “they have to make room for themselves. So as participants in this station, people need to step into the design and pick up food from the landscape, which clears a spot for them to sit and enjoy it.” Once inside the 14’ x 20’ design, diners were encouraged to sit and relax in the space while dining on three kinds of locally-raised food: chicken, bison, and pork, each paired with fresh greens and edible “dirt.”
Before moving on to the next station, diners were encouraged to take an Arbor Day Farm tree seedling from the exhibit space and plant it at home – giving them a role in changing our landscapes for the better through tree planting.
“There really couldn’t be a better fit between the artistic concept and design that Bob and Brian dreamed up for this event and the food that we serve at Lied Lodge,” Chef Matt said. “By staying local and sourcing the best of what’s in the landscape closest to us, we’re treading lightly on our environment and preserving its viability. Plus, it just plain tastes good.”
to-g(R)o by the numbers:
- 14’ x 20’ dining environment
- 375 sheets of 40” x 80” corrugated cardboard
- 630 individual, interlocking sections
- 33 modules that combine to produce the form
- 150 tree seedlings from Arbor Day Farm
- “Micro Farm Scapes” – selections of farm bounty served with edible soil and micro “pastures”:
- “Sunny Side Ham” – TD Niche Farm Heirloom Pork, carrot-horseradish emulsion
- “Prairie Fire” – Perfect Ten Ranch organic bison, juniper, smoke
- “Chicken or the Egg” – Plum Creek Chicken confit, pickled egg, Woody Creek Farm Lavender aioli
After the event, this exhibit will go back to Emerging Terrain headquarters in Omaha for a while, with the anticipation that at some point, it will be relocated to Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City for its permanent home.
This piece was cross-posted on the Lied Lodge & Arbor Day Farm Blog.