Soil Kitchen

Artist: Futurefarmers
Location: The corner of 2nd Street and Girard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Year of completion: 2011
Researcher: Laine Bergeson

In an abandoned building on the corner of 2nd Street and Girard in Philadelphia, you can bring in a soil sample from your yard in return for a bowl of soup. But this dirt-for-food exchange is just one aspect of a unique public art installation designed to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues.

Soil Kitchen is a multifaceted public art project. At once an installation, a temporary kitchen, a science lab (the soil is tested for contaminants), a demonstration of green energy (the project is powered by a windmill), an education center (workshops are being taught on everything from soil conservation to cooking) and an homage to the great fictional character Don Quixote (a statue of whom stands proudly on the same corner) the piece calls attention to the degraded state of urban soil and aims to educate residents on how to respond to possible contaminants in their environment. Futurefarmers, the artists’ collaborative that conceived the project, notes that by bringing soil samples into the Soil Kitchen headquarters, residents are literally “taking matters into their own hands.”

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Soil Kitchen will coincide with the Environmental Protection Agency's National Brownfields Conference, and it was conceived in conjunction with Philadelphia's Green by 2015 initiative. The windmill calls attention to the need for (and call to) incorporate more green energy in urban centers. It also evokes the spirit of Don Quixote, the seventeenth century fictional character who took a stand against giants. In the spirit of Quixote, Soil Kitchen takes its own stand against the complex institutional and legislative factors that govern many of today’s energy choices.

Futurefarmers also looked to the imaginative power of Quixote’s character when creating Soil Kitchen. The artists envisioned a multifaceted project that would raise awareness about centuries of industrial wear on the earth and the gradual destruction of the natural resources in the places we call home. They wanted to encourage people to think both about the causes of the problem and the solutions. They also wanted to empower participants by creating a space for dialogue and offering free educational workshops in wind turbine construction, urban agriculture, soil remediation, and composting, as well as lectures by soil scientists and cooking lessons.

Futurefarmers is comprised of the artists Dan Allende, Ian Cox, Amy Franceschini, and architect Lode Vranken. The work was commissioned by Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, using a grant from the William Penn Foundation. In the end, the commissioners and the artists hope the project will bring together a mix of citizens, artists, designers, scientists, developers, and policy makers in a robust exchange ideas and resources.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency