Art and food go hand-in-hand

“What We Sow” shows Philly the importance of heirloom foods.

The Mural Arts program is to thank for 3,600 public art pieces in the city.

The Mural Arts Program strives to change lives and bring together the community through the use of mural arts. The art form is supposed to serve as an inspiration to the public and become a service for community members.

The program has evolved from a small community project to one that is now recognized as the nation’s largest mural arts program.

Thanks to partnerships and cooperation with city agencies, community programs, schools, nonprofits, private companies and philanthropies, the Mural Arts Program is able to continue to expand. This includes “What We Sow,” which has been running through mid-summer and will continue into the first few weeks of fall. The program will mark the 30th anniversary of the Mural Arts Program.

“The way this came about, Lucy and Jorge [Orta] are internationally known artists and also use art as a vehicle, as a way to start conversation about certain topics,” said Amy Johnston, the Mural Arts Program’s information and event specialist.

Artists Lucy and Jorge Orta  are a large part of the “What We Sow” project and will host “The Meal” on Oct. 5.

There will be a communal table consisting of 118 tables with eight seats each, stretching from Arch Street, through Market Street and up to Chestnut Street. The idea is for the audience to engage in conversation over the importance of nutrition and heirloom foods.

Partner organizations will be at “The Meal” to insure that conversation is flowing between the organizations and public.

“There will be a limited edition plate memento for guests,” Johnston said. “That plate will be intended to keep that conversation going. Whoever keeps their plate from their table will remember this [event] and will share the experience.”

Leading up to the “The Meal” is a series of events that also circulate around the importance of heirloom foods. They include an Heirloom Happy Hour and Fruit Tasting taking place on Sept. 20 at Greensgrow Farms at 2501 E. Cumberland St., which will feature seasonal tastings. The event is $10 at the door and is from 6-8 p.m.

The following day, there will be a Mural, Market and Garden Tour in Kensington. Tickets will be $30 and event goers will be taking a trolley, which will be boarding at Greensgrow Farms at 9:30 a.m.

Editor-in-Chief of Grid Magazine Jon McGoran will moderate a discussion on the politics of seed saving in the age of GMOs at Reading Terminal Market on Sept. 26. There will be a food panel discussion with seed expert William Woys Weaver, Executive Director of the Food and Environment Reporting Network Tom Laskawy and more.

The last event before “The Meal” will be an heirloom apple tasting at Farm to City’s Rittenhouse Farmers Market at 11 a.m. on Sept. 28.

Though “The Meal” is free to attend, seating is limited. Attendees to other “What We Sow” events will be entered into a lottery drawing for the communal dinner.

“This is all such a huge undertaking. I imagine it will be a really fun, important social event. I’m happy it’s staged in Philadelphia. I believe this is Lucy and Jorge’s second time to host an event like this in the United States. Philadelphia is sort of the cradle of liberty, such a historic place,” Johnston said.

Chef Marc Vetri will create the menu based around simple heirloom foods. The Cescaphe Event Group will cater the event, but the program is looking for student volunteers.

“This will be a great event for students who are civic-minded and interested in this topic,” Johnston said. “We are looking for fun, energetic people. Two hundred volunteers are needed to staff the event.”

For more information about the What We Sow Project and the events go to

Chelsea Finn can be reached at

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