Food ChainSauk County, WI
Wormfarm has just completed their annual Farm/Art DTour, a 10-day, 50-mile self guided tour through scenic farmland punctuated by temporary art installations, Roadside Culture Stands, Field Notes, Pasture Performances and more. Through the DTour and related project, “Food Chain”, artists explore the timeless connection between land and people.
ArtPlace asked Wormfarm co-founders Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas about their work at the intersection of culture and agriculture.
ARTPLACE: Have you gained any political traction with your efforts? If so, with whom and how did you do it?
NEUWIRTH & SALINAS: “Traction is an interesting word,” says Salinas. “Suggesting contact and friction leading to progress. And if by “political” you mean elected officials then the answer is: Yes we have. We have certainly been on the radar of our local officials for a while and in our small rural community can speak with them at the corner pub or a Friday fish fry. It was a State Assemblyman who first sent us the NEA Our Town RFP, recognizing our work as creative placemaking. This is especially notable since he represents a party not usually considered supportive of funding cultural activities.”
“The interest in our work is evolving from This is kind of different to This is positive, and could be very important. Our own perspective is changing too and we now recognize the importance of civic engagement not only as a key strategy but as an indicator of success.”
“With investment by ArtPlace”, recalls Neuwirth, “we were able to realize our project on a much larger scale. This of course was noticed by our local political leaders who could in fact take some credit for our success. We now enjoy the enthusiastic bi-partisan support of the former Lt Governor, the State Director of USDA Rural Development , our state reps and state senators, as well as US Senator Herb Kohl. The national attention (and funding) reflects very well on our county and city officials which in turn deepens those relationships and allows for more substantive long-term community and economic benefit.
Perhaps the most exciting turn of events was a recent visit by the Undersecretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, Doug O’Brien. Because of ArtPlace’s partnership with federal agencies including USDA I took it upon myself to see how our ArtPlace project might help to solidify and actualize an ongoing dialogue between the arts and agriculture at the national level as we endeavor to do the same here in our corner of rural Wisconsin. We look forward to seeing how this plays out in 2013.”
PHOTO: Cribs, Installation by Brenda Baker Farm/Art DTour 2012