The ‘public’ part of a public space need not be thought of as a inherent characteristic of a site, but rather as a kind of activity that a site might make room for. The artists behind the Potluck Cart believe that more integrated and social urbanism requires not just public spaces, but intentional activation of spaces in public modes.
The notion of a potluck was central to the formulation of this project – not as an object or space, but as a mode of engagement. Taylor Fourt, Jacob Robinson, Megan Ammari and JC Franco were interested in the egalitarian nature and active participation of this kind of gathering, which they see as an archetype of healthy social interaction. For this project they will collaborate to build a cart that is designed to create these kinds of interactions.
The cart itself consists of a set of basic architectural elements, which fit together. The two larger surfaces of this object clasp together and hold legs to become a long table. The other faces of the box become a vertical frame with pegged adjustable shelves. From a design standpoint it is basic and austere, because it is intended to foster a variety of interactions, turn unexpected sites into venues, and to activate heretofore unengaged areas. This is why the cart had to be portable – small enough to tow on a bike and carry through a doorway – and adaptable to the specifics of the site and the needs of the programming.
It will become the stage for three planned events. The first is a collaborative, shared drawing performance. The cart will be set up on site with two rolls of drawing paper suspended from the frame, and the tabletop as a drawing surface. Potluckers bring their own implements and the team will facilitate improvisational group art making.
The second event will be a pop-up library, partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, in which the cart will carry local, small press, independent books and zines, and will serve as a platform for examination, discussion, trading and selling of printed matter. The tabletop will serve as a reading and display surface, and the frame will become a bookshelf. Participants can bring their own books (BYOB) to share, trade or sell.
The third event is a traditional gastro-centric potluck. Dishes and serving implements will sit on the tabletop and the frame, with pans and a hose hanging from above. A small basin and gas stove will replace the shelf, with the cart ultimately becoming a minimalist portable kitchen for on-site prepping.
What these three events have in common is their open-ended interaction, their activation of public spaces at different locations, and their emphasis on potluck style, bring-things-to-share social modes.
The first part of the Research & Development phase will focus on cart design and building, and then complete with event implementation in 2019/early 2020. The future of the Potluck cart is a fortuitous one. Programming will continue indefinitely as ideas form, and additions to the cart will be fabricated as needed.
Taylor Fourt is an oil painter, food grower, and program coordinator, working with organizations like Manheim Gardens, Imagine That, and Charlotte Street’s Neighborhood Residency program. She has experience organizing volunteers for community events and workdays in Manheim Park, teaching visual arts to people of all backgrounds, and bringing neighbors together, usually over a plate of BBQ.
Jacob Canyon is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and urban farmer who works with the Kansas City Art Institute’s Communications department to produce digital and print media. He’s our go-to guy for poster design, social media blasts, and general “feel good” agenda.
J.C. Franco is a designer and artist who is really into cities and communities. He thinks that changing the world starts with addressing the spaces between us in hopes that we can begin to improve the spaces around us. He works as a creative consultant for AltCap and CCF and enjoys staying involved in Kansas City’s art community any way he can.
Megan Ammari is an interior and product designer who specializes in digital fabrication. Megan has worked for several local custom-fabricators and interior design firms. Her work can be seen all over Kansas City in commercial and residential settings, including Quay’s new coffee bar at the Nelson Atkins. Her mission is to help create better atmospheres, as she believes this will help manifest a kinder and more productive humanity.