July 18, 2012 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Imagine bringing together a bunch of creative local farmers, food producers, gardeners, artists, and designers to collaborate on a massive pop-up dinner for 500 people on a city bridge overlooking an interstate highway…
ElevATE fêted the launch of Stored Potential 2, the continuation of a project that included the transformation of the outside of a decommissioned grain elevator that had become “white noise” to 76,000 daily passing commuters on I-80 near downtown Omaha. The event assembled the sort of creative collaborations not often seen outside restaurant walls, with teams working together to create the pop-up structures that transformed the bridge into a venue for the multi-disciplinary experience.
In spring 2010, for their original project, Stored Potential, Emerging Terrain solicited submissions for 20’x80’ images to hang on the exterior of 13 of the elevator’s silos–images that interpreted and represented of the relationships between land use, food, and agriculture. They wrapped the concrete grain elevator cylinders, shown above, with huge scale printed images.
The first Stored Potential was celebrated with a feast in 6 courses prepared by 10 local chefs and dozens of culinary students, produced by 40 local growers, and delivered animated servers to an 800-foot continuous table, mirroring the length of the grain elevator. The event created an experience of contrasting scales: the massiveness of industrial agriculture and the human dimensions of a meal.
Following up on Stored Potential, the most recent celebration for the launch of Stored Potential 2, took place above ground on the 36th Street bridge overlooking I-80 and in direct view of the entire bannered elevator.
For ElevATE, selected artists and designers collaborated with all types of foodies (chefs, farmers, gardeners, etc.) to design and construct “Elevation Stations” that served a 30-minute small dinner course to a group of approximately 25 people at a time. Each station interpreted expressions of the landscape, facilitated conversation, new collaborations, and created a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
The event included a 20-foot table etched with names and addresses of people displaced by the construction of Interstate 80 through Omaha in the 1950s and 1960s. Burlap bags filled with mini-gardens suspended from cables high above, and a tabletop skateboard-on-pulley system delivered creative food to diners.
Attendees moved from station to station, dining on three kinds of locally-raised food including chicken, bison, and pork, each paired with fresh greens and edible “dirt.” Before moving on to the next station, diners were encouraged to take an Arbor Day Farm tree seedling from the exhibit space and plant it at home so through tree planting they participate in changing and improving the landscape.
Chef Paul Kulik of the Boiler Room teamed up with HDR and Kiewit Building Group providing a return to the most primitive relationship to food and space: fire.
Designers created an inverted firepit, where the elevated flames were deflected forward to roast from behind rather from below, then introduced a vertical spit to allow the meat to roast with direct contact to the fire while still rendering its juices onto a catch pan of locally sourced vegetables.
Chef Matthew Taylor of Lied Lodge and two artists, Bob Trempe of Philadelphia and Brian Hamilton of Omaha, teamed up to create to-g(R)o, above, a food-and-art station doubling as seating with curved waves of corrugated cardboard containing tree seedlings and little cones of food tucked into the cells between wood slices.
What Went Into to-g(R)o
(1) 14’ x 20’ dining environment
375 sheets of 40” x 80” corrugated cardboard
630 individual, interlocking sections
33 modules that combined to produce the form
150 tree seedlings from Arbor Day Farm
The to-g(R)o Menu
Micro Farm Scapes–selections of farm bounty served with edible soil and micro “pastures”
Sunny Side Ham–TD Niche Farm Heirloom Pork, carrot-horseradish emulsion
Prairie Fire–Perfect Ten Ranch organic bison, juniper, smoke
Chicken or the Egg–Plum Creek Chicken confit, pickled egg, Woody Creek Farm Lavender aioli
“There really couldn’t be a better fit between the artistic concept and design that Bob and Brian dreamed up for this event and the food that we serve at Lied Lodge,” Chef Matt said. “By staying local and sourcing the best of what’s in the landscape closest to us, we’re treading lightly on our environment and preserving its viability. Plus, it just plain tastes good.”
After the event, this exhibit will go back to Emerging Terrain headquarters in Omaha for a while, with the anticipation that at some point, it will be relocated to Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City for its permanent home.