2021: Strength in Community
In 2019, Newfields invited artist and community organizer Seitu Jones to join us in hosting At the Crossroads: A Community Meal. The dinner brought together 250 Indianapolis residents around a 400-foot-long table to discuss their experiences with food access as well as the racist housing and environmental policies of the last century that have contributed to the prevalence of food deserts in the city.
2020 proved to be a difficult year, both for the institution as well as our surrounding communities. People’s experiences with food insecurity were exacerbated by widespread layoffs and panic-driven scarcity, and social distancing regulations physically isolated us from our friends, families, and communities. At the Crossroads: Crisis Response represented a conceptual and formal shift in response to the crisis the pandemic presented. Partners who had worked with us on At the Crossroads: A Community Meal launched a number of initiatives that not only aimed to alleviate the stresses of food insecurity, but also to fortify their service audience’s communities through professional development and intergenerational skill- and knowledge-sharing.
As a result of our support of these initiatives:
• Flanner House of Indianapolis expanded the scale of their apiary to accommodate their growing bee colony and prevent swarming, ensuring the health of the hive and the crops it pollinates;
• Groundwork Indy expanded their youth program and assembled a number of at-home gardening kits so that participants could share their urban agricultural education with their families;
• Growing Places Indy increased the buying power of 200 families purchasing produce using SNAP to address the dramatic increase in first-time SNAP applications;
• Lawrence Community Gardens used the newly-purchased refrigeration unit in their mobile farm stand to ensure freshness of the leafy greens they donated to area residents, contributing to an increased donation from 50% to 80% of their harvest;
• Riverside Park provided healthy snacks to youth program participants, non-perishables to families, and fresh produce to senior program participants.
In 2021, as we began to transition into a post-pandemic social configuration, Newfields doubled down in our support of partner-initiated programming to reinforce the foundation they have established to ensure community resilience.
Groundwork Indy’s mission is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships which empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being. Groundwork Indy engages in community-based strategies for revitalizing neighborhoods with initiatives in Youth Development, Greenways and Parks, Brownfields and Vacant Land, and Community Health.
Project: Groundwork’s youth employees have been growing food at home with their families and have been provided a garden kit including a raised bed or container, garden soil, tools and plants of their choice. Newfields support offsets the costs of 40 comprehensive garden kits.
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Growing Places Indy is a nonprofit in Indianapolis, Indiana, on the Near Eastside with a mission to cultivate wellness through urban agriculture, access to fresh local food, and mind-body education. Growing Places Indy operates four urban farm sites and is the co-founder and host of the Indy Winter Farmers Market, one of the largest winter markets in the state of Indiana.
Project: Growing Places Indy is continuing the Double Up Food Program, which doubles program participants’ spending power by giving SNAP recipients an extra $20 to spend on fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. Newfields is also supporting the farm’s efforts to impart the skills necessary to prepare the produce they sell through family cooking and nutrition classes.
Support Growing Places Indy
Lawrence Community Gardens is committed to improving access to fresh food and advocating for food equality for low income residents living in food deserts through direct donations to neighbors, donations to area pantries, and through their "you pick for free" area at the garden. LCG's participation in farmers markets, its roadside stand, and its mobile farm stand provide affordable access to neighbors on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis. They educate the community on organic agriculture practices and work to increase vegetable and fruit consumption while raising food and health awareness. Lawrence Community Gardens is engaging people with hands on experience through programming, volunteerism, and educational workshops.
Project: Newfields support will help Lawrence Community Gardens to extend their youth program through the harvest season. Additionally, Newfields will be providing youth leaders within the garden’s program with 2 introductory beekeeping workshops and guided access our hives.
Support Lawrence Community Gardens
Mother Love’s Garden has been serving the King Commons community since 2013. The garden’s Future Farmers program prepares youths ages 9-12 to be effective leaders in the community with the knowledge and hands-on experience required to grown fresh, healthy food.
Project: Newfields’ support will be used to update the plumbing in the garden’s new Harvest House. Ensuring consistent access to clean water will prevent farm managers from having to move large amounts of water from one site to another, saving them the time and energy they need to ensure the health of their crops and increase their yield.
Support Mother Love's Garden
Riverside Regional Park Foundation centers on providing assistance to the Riverside Regional Park with programming and fund development initiatives as it relates to both the park and family center. The foundation’s mission is to offer volunteer and supplemental financial support to enhance and endorse quality recreational services and programs.
Project: Newfields support will be used to provide healthy snacks for Riverside Park’s youth and senior programming. Newfields will also be providing staff support and lawn games for recreational activities, hosting a youth field trip to the museum, and donating materials for the park’s quilting classes.
Support Riverside Regional Park
Photos courtesy of Groundwork Indy, Growing Places Indy, Lawrence Community Gardens, Mother Love's Garden, and Riverside Regional Park Foundation
At the Crossroads: Strength in Community is currently in process. More images of this social practice artwork will be shared as they are generated.
AT THE CROSSROADS: STRENGTH IN COMMUNITY
Over the course of the pandemic, Newfields supported a number of partner organizations in their efforts to fortify their communities against the impact widespread layoffs and panic-driven scarcity would have on the neighborhoods surrounding the museum and their experiences with access to fresh, nutritious food. Faced with the reality that hosting another large meal in public space would be impossible, Newfields redirected funds to directly support programs initiated by organizations whose missions center the health and wellbeing of the communities of central Indiana.
With Newfields’ support, our partners took the initiative to increase the percentage of their harvest that would be donated to the community; increase the buying power of families and individuals purchasing produce with SNAP; distribute meals, snacks, and groceries through youth and senior programming; implement measures to ensure the health of their crops; and to create opportunity for intergenerational skill- and knowledge-sharing through the use of at-home gardening kits.
“Through 2019’s At the Crossroads: A Community Meal, artist Seitu Jones – in collaboration the incredible cultural leaders we had the opportunity to work with - taught us the importance of de-centering our institutional perspective and honoring the experiences of those in our community by practicing deep listening and being responsive to what we are learning,” said Bryn Jackson, Assistant Curator of Audience Engagement and Performance at Newfields. “If we intend to be an empathetic, multi-cultural, and anti-racist institution, it is imperative that we acknowledge the history of racist housing and environmental policy that has stifled positive, equitable community development and contributed to the formation of food deserts in our city and that we aid our partners in their efforts to combat these conditions. Increasing representation through exhibitions and programming is not sufficient. We must also be prepared to contribute to the economies of communities that have been alienated by the physical, social, financial, and spiritual barriers museums have historically upheld.”
"It was an honor to work with Newfields and the surrounding communities to design and chart a path toward genuine food justice and sovereignty in Indianapolis," said Seitu Jones, creator and host of 2019's At the Crossroads: A Community Meal. "At the Crossroads hopefully provides a template for future meals and other initiatives built on a set of relationships with urban farmers and artists across racial and class lines."
Newfields is proud to partner with all of the following organizations to continue to mitigate food insecurity as we brace ourselves against the COVID-19 Delta variant and looks forward to hosting each during this year’s Harvest in October for a Movers, Shakers, and Growers market. Visitors will be able to purchase locally grown produce and learn more about these organizations’ missions directly from our partners.