Catskill Food Project is an initiative by Forge Collective. Its goal is to bring people together across multiple boundaries with the power of food and art through shared experiences.

It developed organically out of converging motives and serendipities, starting with Old Glenford Church Autumn Banquet (2017). One motive was to fundraise for Catskill Waters. Another was our long-nurtured desire to design a fundraising event as a collaborative art project, planned and produced by artists who would be the stars of the event.

We were fortunate to have David Waltuck, former owner of the legendary Chanterelle, create a 4-course dinner for 50 people. Chanterelle was famous for commissioning an artist to design their menu cover every six months, amassing an impressive collection of original works by prominent artists of the 80s and 90s. In an homage to that tradition, we asked 7 local artists (Beth Humphrey, Alicia Mikles, Willow Thorneater, Jenny Lee Fowler, Chris Victor, Norm Magnusson, Margaret Helthaler) to design a menu cover on the theme of watersheds, for each of the seven tables. Each artist was seated at the head of the table. Their original works were exhibited alongside a selection from the Chanterelle collection including works by Cy Twombly, Marisol, and Virgil Thomson.

The dinner was preceded by a cocktail hour in a church building which was moved from the location now under the Ashokan reservoir. Video works by Dave Hebb and Keiko Sono were projected and live electronic music was performed by Bob Lukomski. The main attraction was a pair of ephemeral works created by artist Sergey Jivetin. One involved creating 80 spoons with copper handles and molded ice bowls, upon which one of the first courses was served. Another piece was an installation of a large lens made of ice over a map of the Ashokan reservoir constructed of pressed copper, with a tiny diamond showing the location of the church before it was moved to the current location. As the ice melted, the water filled the copper basin, recreating the reservoir.

The guest of honor was a community activist Rebecca Martin, who along with Jennifer Schwartz Berky, former Ulster County legislator, and other activists, defeated a plan by Niagara bottling company to purchase and sell Kingston water that is supplied by Cooper Lake in Woodstock. Her speech was so inspiring, author Alexander Chee live-tweeted it to his followers.

Our priority was to produce a high-quality shared experience and to compensate everyone involved including the artists fairly. Therefore the expense was quite high and although the ticket price was also quite high for our area, the fund raised from ticket sales was very modest. However, the guests enjoyed the event so much one of them started a spontaneous fundraiser, challenging others to match his $1000 gift. Bills started flying, and in five minutes, a total of $2000 was raised.

This experience motivated us to further develop a replicable hybrid model, merging experiential art, social capital building, and fundraising for a cause.

Our upcoming event in which we are introducing a Japanese miso maker to the Hudson Valley food and creative community, we are involving local clay artists to showcase their work throughout the space. We are also using this opportunity to introduce our initiative to our community.

Catskill Food Project, an initiative of Forge Collective, is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Catskill Food Project/Forge Collective must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.