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ArtPlace spoke with Raquel Gutierrez, Manager of Community Partnerships for Cornerstone Theater Company, about SEED: A Weird Act of Faith, the second play in The Hunger Cycle, a six-year series of world premiere plays about hunger, justice and food equity issues.

ARTPLACE: What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people?”

GUTIERREZ: We here at Cornerstone Theater Company are doing a project that tells the story of agriculture in rural and urban contexts with communities in South Los Angeles. That project is a play written by Sigrid Gilmer and it’s called SEED: A Weird Act of Faith. It’s a conversation centered on accessible healthy foods and community sovereignty, especially when that community is tired of being told it is a “food desert.” We’re also hoping to expand the conversation through actual distribution of fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables to communities that partake of our artistic offerings. And, in remaining true to our bridge-building mission, this endeavor is also a way for self-avowed Angelenos to have more of an understanding about the different neighborhoods that constitute South Los Angeles, as well as the sustainability practices already in place.

Los Angeles is like a really healthy person walking around with a right arm infected with gangrene (South Los Angeles) and not doing anything about it. That metaphor was introduced to me during my stint as a Community Scholar, a class offered to community organizers, labor researchers, and artists along with public health and urban planning students from UCLA’s School of Urban Planning. I was really troubled by that metaphor but decided to harness that discomfort to impel me to talk to as many people that live in South LA that were interested in telling their story and see it possibly come to life through a staged production.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?

GUTIERREZ: We expect to create vibrancy by being an artistic buoy for and with our community partners and their membership base. These partners include South Central Farmers, Community Services Unlimited, the Community Market Conversion Program and The RootdownLA. These organizations are peopled by some of the most brilliant and passionate strategists that continue to invigorate the conversation when it comes to bringing healthy food and lifestyle to the communities in South LA. Cornerstone Theater Company wants to convey these passions, tensions, lessons and possibilities through movement, text, image and sound. It’s been eye-opening as well as heart-expanding to learn hands-on about our partners’ work throughout the span of our engagement activities. Our work here as artists is to be of service to community members’ stories, which underscore this organically emerging partnership and friendship.

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