A new student-created exhibition at the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, “Off the Menu,” explores how food connects people while preserving cultures and identities.
The exhibit, which opened to a filled room on Thursday, Feb. 20, is the work of students in the Museum Studies course taught by Elizabeth Schlatter, the University of Richmond Museums deputy director and curator of exhibitions.
“[I was] just thinking about how there's links between art and creativity and food and how food is such an easy way to connect with others,” Schlatter said. “It's not like a novel idea. But it is kind of a neat way to explore those ideas here on campus.”
Students saw the art as a cultural connector among students following a recent series of racist incidents on campus.
“It [the racial incidents] is something we've been thinking about because it kind of has come into all aspects of the university,” said Jessica Loos, a senior and student in the Museum Studies class. “So when thinking about creating this, connecting culture and bringing people together is definitely something we kept up in the front of our minds.”
Joyce Zhang, a senior visiting the exhibit on its opening night, saw the exhibit as a way of creating cultural awareness and connections through personal experiences with food, she said.
The exhibition features an art display and two interactive sections.
The interactive exhibits are a fake refrigerator door where visitors can write and post their favorite recipes and food memories, and three chalkboards inviting comments on the topics of how we eat, what we eat and who we eat with. The art section features decoupages of the Museum Studies students’ favorite meals.
“It's kind of breaking down … different aspects of food and things from culture and stuff like that and asking questions about, you know, 'Where does your food come from? How do you eat food? … Who do you eat with? What are your memories?,'” said Mike Laposata, a senior and student in the Museum Studies class.
Recipes were chosen as the theme because of their common history in people’s lives, said Heather Campbell, UR's curator of museum programs.
“Everybody eats and everybody has gatherings with their families and everybody has that recipe that their grandmother or their mom made them," Campbell said.
The role that food plays in people’s lives was a personal and informative experience that brought the students working on the exhibit closer together, Loos said.
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“While all of our stories were very different,” she said, "their work came down to such common themes as connection, culture, identity and family."
On March 1 from 2-4 p.m., the Museum Studies class will host a workshop where visitors can share their own recipes and food stories, Laposata said.
The students said they had enjoyed the experience of putting on their own exhibit, while also learning more about each other.
“I am so happy to be here. And I've learned so much and I'm sure you guys would think the same,” Loos said, referring to her classmates. “None of us really knew each other before. But after this, we've all gotten so close.”
Off the Menu will be open until May 1 at the gallery.
Contact news writer Ben Wasserstein at email@example.com.
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