Skip to main content

College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

University of Dayton students organize art exhibition, fundraising dinner to promote community food justice

By Dave Larsen

University of Dayton students are spinning plates — literally — to prepare for an annual fundraising dinner, art exhibition and auction to benefit nonprofit community partners and raise awareness about food justice efforts in Dayton.

Dinner in the Desert Kitchen V: Forage Ahead is produced by the Department of Art and Design in conjunction with Gem City Market and its wellness partner, Expressions of Life. The fifth annual event is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, at The Hub powered by PNC Bank at the Dayton Arcade. It is free and open to the public, with food and drink available for purchase from local vendors.

In its first four years, the event raised $4,000 for the Dayton Foodbank and Gem City Market cooperative. A new initiative added this year, offering soup in ceramic bowls created by students, could significantly increase its fundraising impact.

Dinner in the Desert Kitchen is organized by students in associate professor Glenna Jennings’ Art and Social Practice course, which explores collaborative art production for effecting social change, and senior lecturer Hsuan Tsen’s Constructions of Place course, which examines the environmental conditions that influence landscapes and communities.

The concept started seven years ago with two professors and four students in a class to address Dayton’s status as a “food desert,” with a limited number of food retailers providing fresh produce and healthy groceries for affordable prices. It now encompasses multiple faculty and nearly 80 students in majors from across the University.

“We started forming the Desert Kitchen Collective in 2014 using food justice as our primary topic to really talk about issues of poverty, race and social justice,” Jennings said. “Food was a way to literally get people to the table, but also all sit down on the same level and discuss hard issues through a commonly shared substance.”

The dinner experience features a sit-down meal for a small group of individuals from a cross-section of community-minded interests and disciplines, including University faculty, elected officials and representatives from the community partner organizations. They will enjoy conversation and a menu inspired by this year’s theme of “foraging,” which highlights sustainable food practices. The menu was created by Arthur’s Apples, a new Black-owned startup at The Hub, with input from Christina Green, a junior dietetics major from Douglas, Alabama.

Green also is helping with Empty Bowls, the new dining initiative for the public. People can purchase a handmade ceramic bowl for $10 and enjoy their choice of soup. The options include Sambar, a South Indian vegetable stew, and Pozole, a Mexican pork stew that will be cooked and served in collaboration with Latinos Unidos Dayton, a nonprofit that works to advance the Latino community. Proceeds from the bowl sales benefit Expressions of Life, which operates a teaching kitchen where students and community partners will make the soups.

More than 30 students from across all four levels of ceramics are creating 200 bowls and 20 plates for the event, designed in collaboration with Jennings’ students. They are using hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques taught by assistant professor Geno Luketic and instructor Stephanie Beiser.

DDK Blog post

“Students started building the skills to make these forms — a first for many — at the beginning of the fall semester,” Luketic said. “In the second half, they began work on the pieces. Our work will continue right up to the event — collaboratively making, trimming, decorating and firing the pieces. The dinner coincides with the last day of the term and many students will volunteer at the event.”

Previous fundraising efforts included a silent auction and the sale of new student photographic works, which will continue this year. Limited-edition prints will be gifted to people who donate a nonperishable food item to the Dayton Foodbank.

Dinner in the Desert Kitchen V also will mark the debut of a new double-issue of Desert Dispatch, a publication created by students in Jennings’ class that features stories about local residents and organizations striving for food justice.

“The communication skills, logistics, planning and design skills that Desert Dispatch requires are extremely valuable,” said Jack Kargl, a senior graphic design major from Miamisburg, Ohio. “Interviewing community partners, touring the Dayton Foodbank's urban garden and creating a tangible magazine that will be distributed are things I never would have done without the Art and Social Practice class. The independence and creative freedom that I was allowed with these projects has simulated real-world work in a way that I never expected.”

Allison Matis, a senior pre-medicine major from Louisville, Kentucky, was a member of the magazine’s photography committee.

“As a pre-medicine major, I will need to be able to provide my patients the best care possible,” Matis said. “Through the Art and Social Practice class, I am able to learn about health and food from a different perspective that will allow me to better assess and understand my patients’ needs in the future. As a photography minor, I have also been able to practice my skills in a more experiential setting.”

The Desert Dispatch and ceramic bowls will live on after the one-day dinner event to bring attention to Dayton’s food insecurity issues. The art exhibition will remain on display through Jan. 21 at The Hub, 31 S. Main St. in Dayton.

For more information, visit the Desert Kitchen Collective website and the Department of Art and Design website.

Previous Post

University of Dayton aviation historian Janet Bednarek featured in ‘Wall Street Journal,’ ‘Rolling Stone’ and other outlets for expertise

Media outlets including the History Channel, The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone magazine are flocking to University of Dayton history professor Janet Bednarek for her expertise on aviation history.
Read More
Next Post

University of Dayton psychologist partners with Harvard-affiliated hospital and Dayton nonprofit to research generational trauma, mental health of children

Lucy Allbaugh, an assistant professor of psychology at UD, and a team of undergraduate and graduate students partnered with researchers from McLean Hospital, a Harvard affiliate, on the Dayton Kids Project, which aims to better understand childhood adversity.

Read More