After 5 years of work on the Central Park table runner – around 4,000 of hand embroidery – I was finally able to show the final installation to the public. “A Seat at the Table” is more than a luxurious fine dining setting. It is a commentary on the unequal distribution of natural resources and power among urban populations, and our dependence on food systems that import goods from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. In an ideal world, we would have access to grow food wherever possible, and especially in parks that are managed for the good of the people.
Central Park in New York City has over 800 acres of land, and no gardens. The Central Park Conservancy is responsible for maintaining this historic landscape as it was envisioned by the designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the conservancy does an excellent job providing recreation and natural space for New Yorkers. But there is room for improvement, especially when considering that Olmsted learned his craft as a farmer, and that he worked at a time when 70% of the American population derived primary or secondary income from agriculture. One wonders if he would approve of the way we have cut ourselves off from the process of growing food, and if he would want to see his design adapted for contemporary needs and use.
However, it appears there is little room at the table of decision makers, when it comes to positive change. The status quo remains, and if not for organizations like GrowNYC, there would be even less access to green space for gardens in New York. For that reason, my show raised over $500 for GrowNYC’s activities, by selling tickets to guests who wanted to take a seat at my installation. When given the option, and the understanding, people do support equity in food security.