About the Project
Marking its 30th-year anniversary, Mural Arts took a look back at its history and took a step into the future with this participatory project that explored the social and experimental dimension of art in public space. 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV took the future of Mural Arts beyond a genre-specific format and expanded on the social and civic foundation of mural traditions by addressing the relationship between local communities, regional ecologies, global economies, and the politics of food production.
70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV was a collaboration between Mural Arts and internationally renowned, Paris-based artists, Lucy + Jorge Orta. This was the 34th in the Orta’s ongoing series of ritual meals staged throughout the world, and gathered a diverse group of people around a communal table to meet, discuss and debate the politics of food production, and the role heirloom foods can play in creating a healthier ecology and food system.
70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV, a visual and performative work of public art, was free to the 900 invited, seated participants who gathered in the heart of Philadelphia. 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV served a sampling of heirloom produce created by consulting chef Marc Vetri and catered by Cescaphe Event Group.
The menu for 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV was:
- Fennel and parmesan gratin
- Squash caponata with raisins and pine nuts
- Traditional bagna cauda with potatoes, purple carrots, fennel, and chicory
- Haricots vert and red fingerling potato.
I am pleased to work with Mural Arts Philadelphia, which I have admired for many years. I care deeply about food access and food quality, and am very interested to see the conversations that arise from this project.
Preparing for 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV
The heirloom ingredients was supplied by Lancaster Farm Fresh, a cooperative of local farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Heritage Farm, located on the Methodist Home for Children’s Philadelphia campus; and Glenn Brendle of Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania.
70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV took place as part of Mural Arts’ What We Sow project and during Mural Arts Month (October 2013), the kickoff to the year-long 30th Anniversary Celebration for the organization.
Dialogue & Food Advocacy
One element of the performative aspect of 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV was a communal dialogue guests were asked to initiate and join in at the table. Seated among diverse diners from across the Greater Philadelphia area and beyond, participants were prompted to discuss issues of food advocacy centered around heirloom produce. One goal of this was to initiate conversation on vital issues, while another was to catalyze learning and spread awareness.
Afterward, guests and volunteers shared highlights from their conversations through comment cards and in an online survey. Here is what some said:
“I never really considered heirloom fruits and vegetables of being an important topic before this event.”
“It was a highly meaningful event, and I appreciated especially the inclusivity. What else speaks to our identities as Philadelphians more than sitting at a table between a Mennonite farmer and a woman who just finished her shift at McDonalds? Beautiful, redemptive, much-appreciated event.”
“[The Meal] reinforced notions of how public art has vast potential for bringing awareness of need for social change.”
“I’ve been working in the farming world for over 15 years as a farmer and educator, and this type of event warms my heart and soul. Thank you for this magical collaboration. YUM!”
“Hospitality is public art and it builds strong communities and positive civic energy.”
70 x 7 The Meal act XXXIV, Expanded Citywide
In addition to 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV taking place at the Municipal Services Building, Thomas Paine Plaza, Mural Arts also reached out to restaurants, organizations that feed the hungry, and individual families to take 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV to their own dining tables. Through kits containing lengths of the table runner designed by the Ortas and heirloom produce and recipes, participants of the citywide effort had the opportunity to produce heirloom meals on their own.
The goal of this expanded citywide effort was to engage a broader audience throughout the city, especially those who were not able to attend 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV at its location in Center City. Working in partnership with SHARE Food Program to assemble and distribute free kits that fed more than 400 individuals, recipients included Face to Face in Germantown, Sunday Supper in Norris Square, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest program.
In addition, a selection of local restaurants created special heirloom menus for the evening of Saturday, October 5, and used a piece of the Orta designed table runner at their own locations.
70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV
4630 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143
812 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
8705 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118
La Calaca Feliz
2321 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
120 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
121 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
901 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Of the roughly 900 seats at The Meal, one quarter were open to the public through a lottery system. Philadelphia residents were invited to attend What We Sow events throughout the summer, and at each event had the opportunity to enter their name into the lottery for a chance to win two seats at The Meal. The remaining seats were distributed by Mural Arts and project and community partners to share with their respective audiences. The Meal was intended to bring together a diverse cross-section of Philadelphia in order to discuss heirloom food and food culture and share in the communal act of dining.
Previous stagings of 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV
Lucy and Jorge Orta are renowned for creating multi-disciplinary works of art that explore critical social and ecological needs and systems. They first conceived of the 70×7 The Meal, communal table event in 2000 as a way to directly engage their audiences in the public art-making process, and to highlight dialogue as a central part of their social practice.
Heirloom produce for 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV was provided by
Bread is provided by The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative
The Alliance Française de Philadelphie
Cescaphe Event Group
Colligas Family ShopRite
Face to Face
Farm to City
The Food Trust
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
Green Meadow Farm
Growing Home Garden
Happy Cat Farm
Independence National Historical Park
Independence Visitor Center Corporation
Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative
Mill Creek Farm
Moore College of Art & Design
Nationalities Service Center
Norris Square Neighborhood Project
Philly Seed Exchange
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
SHARE Food Program
Mill Creek Farm
Norris Square Neighborhood Project
Philly Seed Exchange
Reading Terminal Market
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
Three Springs Fruit Farm
The Vetri Family
Whole Foods Market