In a city filled with fast-food options on every corner, bags of chips and cans of soda filling the shelves in local deli’s and bodega’s, and large, glossy ads of sugared drinks on billboards and in shop windows, it’s not easy promoting healthy eating to our kids. Or is it. In the installation EAT ME! the artist, Capucine Bourcart takes a deep-dive into the ease of turning this around in her community, Harlem.
The project originated as a query ~ noticing kids on their way to school, after school, on weekends, standing on line at fast-food restaurants, walking home from school with a can of soda in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, munching on subways, buses, and on the sidewalks.
It also did not escape the eye of this artist, who has lived and worked in Harlem for more than a decade, that on these same corners were fruit and vegetable stands that have become a permanent part of the landscape of this neighborhood all along 125th Street.
The bodega’s now have displays of neat rows of apples, bananas, and other healthy treats, as do the local supermarkets. Even McDonalds has an escape from the 1,100 calorie ‘Big Mac Meal‘ with a 350 calorie variety of salads.
After exploring all the local alternatives and finding that healthy food could be found either in the same place or just a few doors away from its unhealthy competitor, Bourcart’s query became a project developing in her minds-eye.
Camera in hand, she set about to local markets, deli’s, bodega’s, and corner farm stands, and she created a photographic mosaic of about 1,500 printed metal square pictures of healthy food ~ colorful fruits and vegetables, beans and greens, all purchased locally, and all as affordable as the unhealthy counterpart. With the project now crystalizing, the focus would be not only a global health challenge but a local challenge, moving our kids away from a variety of problems associated with unhealthy eating and obesity, toward nutritious food and good eating habits.
As artists often do, the query, which became a project, laid out in her minds-eye as an outdoor art installation, to be placed on the chain-link fence surrounding Eugene McCabe Field, named after the founder of North General Hospital ~ adjacent to PS 79 and the site of an athletic field used for soccer and softball.
The installation’s eye-catching title, EAT ME!, with each of its large-format letters created out of the printed metal squares, would be a seed planted to all who passed by ~ a reminder that eating healthy is a choice with a plethora of life’s benefits. And her hope is that her giant reminder will open a door for kids in her community to see other opportunities for healthy choices.
We were given a tour of the artists Harlem studio, filled with batches of inspiration destined to become installations. Below are a few pictures from our tour.
Continuing with the artist’s theme, we thought it worth mentioning a few of the other healthy choices we found in her neighborhood. One such positive educational opportunity is an organization we visited earlier this year, the nonprofit Harlem Grown, a local organization that teaches and inspires kids by having them grow produce at one of eleven local sites. They are then given what they grow for free. Another (NYC Department of Health) encourages walking with a 3.5 mile East Harlem Walking Trail, and in addition, one of our favorite self-guided walking tours is a Public Art Initiative art installation tour that takes walkers from park to park, with art installations along the way. Have a little more energy? Take a hike up to the top of the Acropolis in Marcus Garvey Park.
Capucine Bourcart: EAT ME! is expected to be completed by July 4th, and will be on view at Eugene McCabe Field, located on Park Avenue and 120th Street in East Harlem for one year. Will will post more pictures when EAT ME! is completely up.
This installation is made possible with funding provided by the Public Art Initiative, an ongoing cultural equity initiative of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, sponsored by the Durst Organization and the Harlem Community Development Corporation.
Unveiling and Opening Reception for Capucine Bourcart: EAT ME! and Naomi Lawrence: La Flor De Mi Madre will be on Tuesday, July 9th at 6pm ~ on Park Avenue between 120th/121st Street in East Harlem. After-Opening party info at UGC Eats Right Here.