ACC Conference: Adam Lerner - "Mixed Taste: Tag Team Lectures": Prairie School Architecture & Clancey's Meat and Fish.
Adam Lerner "Mixed Taste: Tag Team Lectures":
The premise of the lecture format called, "Mixed Taste" (developed by Adam Lerner) was an unusual combination of two seemingly unrelated topics. Examples of previous programs offered by Lerner included "Tequila and Dark Energy in the Universe", “Marxism and Kittens, Kittens, Kittens,” and "Soul Food and Existentialism.” After both lectures, Q & A is open for both topics at the same time.
These are just a few examples from a lecture series organized by Adam Lerner. His first program debuted many years ago and had only 20 people in the audience (mostly friends and family), but his audiences grew exponentially! By, the time Lerner closed the series at his alternative space, he sold out every show to the maximum seating capacity of 330 people. The audiences included punk kids to retirees. Now, this type of programming continues at the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Denver where Adam Lerner is Director and Chief Animator in the department of structures and fiction.
You may be wondering why I am spending so much time telling you about the lecture format, but it was a really cool, gutsy idea! Maybe you will want to use it next time you plan a program for your local arts group.
The two topics at the ACC Conference were "Prairie School Architecture" with speaker Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate Curator, Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft, and Sculpture, Minneapolis Institute of Art , and “Meat Fabrication” with Kristin Tombers, owner of Clancey’s Meats and Fish (also in Minneapolis). Each speaker spoke for twenty minutes on their seemingly unrelated areas of expertise.
The interesting thing was that after listening to both lectures I realized that these two seemingly unrelated topics had a lot of connections. It was very surprising!
A summary of the CONNECTIONS between these two topics:
- Both Prairie Architecture and Clancey’s Meat and Fish depended on local talent.
- Both are dependent on local entrepreneurship.
- Both are dependent on the local landscape (though in different ways.)
- Both were inspired by an accidental moment.
- Both depend on the dedication, vision, and commitment of individuals.
- Both depend on quality craftsmanship and problem-solving for success.
- Both represent the livelihood and lifestyle of creative individuals.
- Both ideas are dependent on patrons who are willing to support the artistic vision.
And NOW a summary of each lecture.
“Prairie School Architecture”
As mentioned earlier the “Prairie School Architecture” lecture was given by Jennifer Komar Olivarez. She was articulate and well-spoken without reading her lecture. I spent an afternoon at the MIA and personally saw the decorative arts, architecture , and an amazing silver tea service
all designed to go in local historical Prairie School Architecture homes. Don’t miss this if you go to the museum or see an online tour by CLICKING HERE.
My summary of Prairie School Architecture will be inadequate compared to getting a book from the library or looking online. Jennifer showed us excellent visuals illuminating the unique features of Prairie School Architecture and highlighting the key factors that were important to the development of this particular style.
There were three concepts presented that can apply to our careers as makers.
- First, the “Prairie School Architecture” was enabled by an accident, the 1871 Chicago Fire, which presented a great opportunity to rebuild an entire community. The situation essentially created both a blank slate for new design influences and a huge demand for architects to produce designs.
- Second, the importance of the teacher/mentor-intern/apprenticeship relationships among the architects of that time who evolved into a lineage of design influences for several generations.
- Third, talented individuals had to work hard to develop new ideas.
“The Art of Meat Fabrication”
Kristin Tombers came to own Clancey’s Meat and Fish after an accidental meeting where she learned that the shop was for sale. Since purchasing the job six years ago, Kristin has dedicated herself to buying and selling local quality meat and fish for her customers. She is a hands-on advocate for the “locally grown” and sustainable practices of raising animals in a healthy environment. Part of her advocacy is educating her patrons about why her products are better than the plastic-packaged foods in the grocery store. This deep commitment to her meat fabrication set the stage for her speaking appearance at the ACC Conference.
One more lesson we can learn from this speaker is her entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to the butcher shop, she supports community-supported agriculture by being a “drop site” for locally grown fruits and vegetables. The people who come to pick up their produce become her customers. And finally, once a month she prepares a gourmet dinner for an intimate group of patrons using quality, fresh, locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Speaking quite convincingly, she thinks of her effort as a craft. Her meat fabrication shop requires skill and absolute dedication to both her farmers and customers. It reflects a lifestyle choice of everyone involved, from the producers to the patrons. Her genuine authenticity about this decision filled her lecture with an intensity that captured everyone's attention in the auditorium. It was inspiring! Every student, teacher, emerging artist, gallery director, curator, and patron should fill their hearts with such sincerity. The art and craft world would be much better for it.
WHAT QUESTIONS WERE ASKED AND ANSWERED? Questions and answers were weak relative to the quality of the lectures. People got up to express their opinions rather than to ask a question. Maybe it is just too hard to formulate a good question so quickly after so much insightful information.
One person opined that since quality local food often costs more, it is a socially elitist choice. This is a shortsighted assessment and I strongly disagree. I make a habit of buying seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables and cooking quality food at home. The item itself may be priced slightly higher but it is more flavorful, more healthy, and less expensive per meal versus eating from factory farmed products, junky processed, prepared or frozen food, or fast food. This seems to be a matter of education and commitment. Not even considering the broader environmental impact, the overall direct benefits and net savings for me personally justify a commitment to fresh, local foods.
LIFESTYLE or LIVELIHOOD
Both of these speakers covered examples of combining lifestyle and livelihood. Kristin Tombers from Clancey’s Meat and Fish made it quite clear that if she didn’t make a profit she could not afford to stay in business. Customers see her level of commitment to quality and value for her customers. She says the neighborhood is hungry for hand-crafted, quality goods. They want to support her business for their own benefit.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
Sincerely following your core beliefs in a creative vision and your roots as a maker can be both meaningful and profitable. Socially and politically responsible decisions can make money.
SUMMARY: Passion, authenticity, hard work, and commitment are keys to success. And you have to interact and find a market segment that wants what you deliver.
Please feel welcome to offer your opinions as comments.
Information and interviews with Will Allen (and his MacArthur Genius Grant) educating urban people in Milwaukee about locally grown vegetables.
Keep talking about this topic and move it into all social classes.
Check out the movie Food,inc for insight into America's food industry.
This post was edited on January 3, 2022, to provide current links.