Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love
June 4–September 11, 2022
The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) invites artists living and working in the Bronx to submit proposals for designs to be featured on tables to be displayed publicly throughout the Garden grounds for visitor use during an upcoming exhibition entitled Around the Table, on view from June 4–September 11, 2022.
Around the Table will focus on the cultural, horticultural, scientific, and historical significance of food and edible plants. Food is at the center of life’s most important events and cultural practices. When we gather together for a meal, the dishes we share tell a story—and we share a bit of ourselves. From global dietary staples such as rice, beans, squash, and corn to the regional spice and flavor provided by peppers, greens, and more, plants are at the base of all food traditions. Around the Table will examine the social and cultural importance of plants and food to our identity and interactions through an indoor-outdoor display of plants, art, and scientific stories. As a centerpiece of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to gather at artist-designed tables set throughout our 250 acres that tell the stories of the foods we love.
About the Exhibition
Around the Table will celebrate the myriad of global food traditions and consider the environmental and social impacts of food through examination of the following:
- The origins of diverse fruits and vegetables. The average consumer may have little connection to where their food comes from, and may be unaware of the traditional origin of plants, agricultural techniques, or food traditions—even if those foods or traditions are themselves familiar.
- Food as a carrier of culture. In families and communities all over the world the people who prepare food pass on keys to collective identity along with recipes. Food preparation is often romanticized, and the labor of preparing the food we eat may be sanitized—or erased.
- Visible and invisible forces that shape our diets and traditions, and have dictated who has access to certain foods—historically and today.
- The choices we make about the foods we eat have environmental and social consequences. Single-crop industrial agriculture and global movement of food have environmental impacts. Food workers—on farms, in processing, in shipping and distribution, and working in stores and restaurants—bring our food to us every day, but are often overlooked, even exploited, around the world.
- Global conversations and communications around food, and access to food resources, are not equally accessible—across our city or worldwide. The exhibition will explore the conversations currently in progress around changing—even challenging—the typical narratives around the foods we eat, food histories, and who tells the stories.
A living exhibition in and around the Conservatory will invite visitors to explore the diversity and beauty of plants that are grown for food all over the world. A portion of the Conservatory Lawn will be transformed into an undulating field of diverse grains. Inside the Conservatory, an assortment of edible herbaceous plants and fruit-bearing trees will be planted in containers, on trellises, and in massed plantings. The Conservatory Courtyards will be planted with containers of rice, taro, banana, grapes, olives, dates, figs, citrus, and other edible plants from a variety of climates. Peppers, tomatoes, and gourds will be grown in containers, and a spirits garden will feature plants that are used in the creation of beer, wine, and liquors.
Artist-designed tables throughout the Garden will bring to life stories about edible plants and plant-based food traditions. The tables and accompanying interpretation will highlight the plants’ history and cultural significance and will encourage sitting, sharing, and storytelling
An African American Garden, curated by Jessica B. Harris, Ph.D., the premier authority on African American foodways, will celebrate the key role of the plants of the African diaspora in the creation of American cuisine.
Art and science exhibits in the Library Building Galleries will invite visitors to dig deeper, considering the essential role of farm workers in the American food system through the work of contemporary artist Lina Puerta, learning about the history and variety of plant-based recipes in the Garden’s cookbook collection, and learning about the work of researchers today to understand the bioactive compounds in the foods we eat, the science of growing food, and the impact of food choices have on the environment around us.
A panel show featuring NYBG’s Bronx Oral Histories Project, including sketches and process drawings by Bronx muralist Andre Trenier, who is creating murals for select Bronx Green-Up gardens in association with the project.
About The New York Botanical Garden
Founded in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden is the most comprehensive botanical garden in the world and an integral part of the cultural fabric of New York City, anchored in the Bronx. Visitors come to the Garden to connect with nature for joy, beauty, and respite, and for renowned plant-based exhibitions, music and dance, and poetry and lectures. Innovative children’s education programs promote environmental sustainability and nutrition awareness, graduate programs educate the next generation of botanists, while engaging classes inspire adults to remain lifelong learners. The 250-acre verdant landscape—which includes a 50-acre, old-growth forest—and the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory support living collections of more than one million plants. Unparalleled resources are also held in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, the world’s most important botanical and horticultural library with 11 million archival items spanning ten centuries, and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere with 7.8 million plant and fungal specimens. Committed to protecting the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, Garden scientists work on-site in cutting-edge molecular labs and in areas worldwide where biodiversity is most at risk.