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Good Food and Innovative Art Combine for Social Change

Published: October 06, 2009
Taking a nod from chef Julia Child, UT art students and faculty are helping bring about social change with the launch of Operation Bon Appétit.

With a mission to stimulate people into action for social change, Operation Bon Appétit will kick off its first White House State Dinners’ Art Installation at Whole Foods Market, 1548 N. Dale Mabry Highway, on Oct. 9 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Keeping with a CIA theme (Cultural Innovations Agency, a humorous take on Julia Child’s history working for the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming a chef), the gatherings, called White House State Dinners, are a mix of art, good food and inspired conversation.

The seven art installations created by UT faculty and students reflect interpretations of Operation Bon Appétit themes, such as New Economy: Coin of the Realm Where Everyone Counts; Mi Casa Su Casa: Inclusive Family Values; and Being a “C” Student: Competent, Caring and Carefree: Public Education That Works.

“Even though this was started with topics given to us, it’s just a starting point,” said Jeffrey Gibbons ’10, who is creating an abundant table with wire fencing around it, preventing access. The piece follows the theme Inequity Does Exist.

“The pieces we are coming out with should lead to further digging into various other topics and interpretations,” Gibbons said. UT art faculty Santiago Echeverry and Kendra Frorup and UT art students Hannah Hudson, Jacob Greatens, Barbara Stubbs, Richard Smith, Christopher Hurtig, Lisa Harasiuk, Will Stryffeler, Hilary King and Dominic Santoro are participating as well.

UT adjunct professor Jan Roberts, founder of Operation Bon Appétit, said the ethical framework for the movement is built on Earth Charter U.S., which she founded, and which is an international peoples’ agreement for a sustainable future and its principles for economic and social equity, respect for nature and a culture of peace.

“It’s a grassroots approach to people and planet well-being through conviviality,” said Roberts, and of the art, “It’s cutting edge stuff.”

Discussion questions will be offered to stimulate conversation, and Whole Foods is providing food and wine. While the White House State Dinners are making their debut with a formal art installation, Roberts said the program can be brought into any living room through smaller, more casual dinners using guidelines on the program’s Web site, .

“I feel art is a conduit for mainstream social change,” said Roberts, who sees the project growing here in Tampa (they have an IKEA exhibit planned for 2010) and then nationally.

UT student Hannah Hudson plans to set a formal dinner table with her grandmother’s fine china, however she is arranging it on the floor.
“It’s about access,” Hudson ’10 said. “When everyone has to bend down to get their food and bring it up to eat, it puts everyone on the same level. It’s about equality.”

Tickets are available at Whole Foods for $5 with proceeds benefitting UT Art Department’s scholarship fund and the Earth Charter. For more information, go to or call (813) 254-8454.