The Hunger CycleLos Angeles, CA
ArtPlace recently spoke with Maria Guerra, Development Assistant for Cornerstone Theater Company, about new options for sustainability that have emerged during their ArtPlace grant period. Cornerstone’s production of Lunch Lady Courage, the third play in The Hunger Cycle, recently opened at Robert F. Kennedy Schools – Cocoanut Grove Theatre. The Hunger Cycle is a six-year series of world premiere plays about hunger, justice and food equity issues.
ARTPLACE: How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after your ArtPlace grant?
GUERRA: During the four week performance run of Seed: A Weird Act of Faith, Cornerstone partnered with Community Services Unlimited to create and run a locally stocked produce stand (a mini-farmers market) outside of the performance venue area – making connections between audience members, locals, and produce vendors.
We also held ten Creative Seeds events during the four week performance run of Seed, including: a post-show Conversation with Noni Olabisi, Yreina Crevantez, and Alma Lopez, three community artists who discussed artistic responses to hunger; a Social Enterprise Conversation moderated by Max Gail of Social Enterprise Alliance, two excerpted presentations of Café Vida, our first Hunger Cycle production, including Q&A sessions with Students at Free LA High School, an educational site for youth who have been suspended or expelled from schools or entire districts, as well as an International food festival hosted by No More P.A.I.N., an organization that introduces high-risk youth to the diversities of cultures in our own city of LA; a Chuco’s Justice Jam to engage with members of the community of Chuco’s Justice Center; a Screening of Community Services Unlimited Film & Panel discussion at Mercado La Paloma; two post show conversations with cast;x as well as a Fair Food Festival including gardening workshops and presentations of healthy vegan, raw and organic food in anticipation of opening night, among other activities.
Workshops on gardening, cooking, and canning began on December 17th, and will continue through April – primarily engaging community participants from our plays Seed: A Weird Act of Faith and our first Hunger Cycle production, Café Vida. Topics include: cooking for the holidays with local and seasonal produce, sustainability, pickling and fermenting, winter seed gathering, and an educational workshop on the Black Panther school breakfast program.
The ArtPlace grant has allowed us to expand and deepen our community engagement by providing more time and resources for one-on-one interactions between community and artists through workshops and events focused on issues of hunger, food equity, cooking, gardening, and more. This has enriched our programming and showed us that with the right tools and resources, we are able to make a positive impact on the communities we touch.
Because the ArtPlace grant has set a standard for the quality and number of activities we provide for our constituents outside of theatrical productions, an on-going challenge will be sustain our Creative Seeds and other community-centered programming. Our effort to continue with this work will be evident in the engagement approaches of our Strategic Plan, at the center of which is the desired outcome of having more time and more interesting activities with which to involve our constituents in the themes and questions of our plays. We plan to fundraise specifically for this, put in place staff dedicated exclusively to workshops and events, and generally conceptualize our work internally more clearly as engagement-centered.
ARTPLACE: Have new options for sustainability emerged during the grant period?
GUERRA: Due to the success of our ArtPlace activities, we have received several requests from community participants for additional engagement opportunities. The need to sustain these activities is therefore clear and we will work hard to ensure that we continue to provide engagement opportunities. The partnerships we have formed thus far because of our ArtPlace programming are promising and give us a good indication of the potential for future work.
ARTPLACE: Will this work live beyond the grant period? How has this work affected the work you will do beyond the grant period?
GUERRA: This work will certainly live beyond the grant period, as it has become an expectation as part of our community engagement programs. ArtPlace activities have affected the work that we plan to do beyond the grant period, as they have set a new standard for our engagement.