Fresh Artists joined forces for the second year with the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (SLA) and top local restaurants to introduce kids to the art of culinary masterpieces – both on canvas and on the plate.
Lacroix (Chef Jon Cichon), Bistrot La Minette (Chef Peter Woolsey), Pub and Kitchen (Chef Eli Collins) and Vernick (Chef Gregory Vernick) have opened their top-rated restaurants to a select group of 7th grade students under my direction.
I learned the art of efficiency from working with area top chefs at Zahav and Pub and Kitchen. I apply the design and management techniques of a professional kitchen to creating a dynamic art classroom environment that inspires creativity and focus for my students. “Yes, Chef!” is the immediate response to directions given in this stimulating and unconventional art studio where cooking up a painting is a regular happening.
In 2012, I took a step further and partnered with nationally award-winning Philadelphia nonprofit, Fresh Artists, to collaborate on the development of a highly innovative four-month pilot program – Fresh Artists Palates-to-Palettes project. This multifaceted curriculum exposes 7th grade students from SLA, a southwest Philadelphia charter school located near the airport, to masterpieces in fine art and fine cuisine while introducing them to a variety of career paths in the creative economy.
I began by teaching my students about the art of the still life, starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a private tour of food-themed still life masterpieces in their collection led by Curator of Education for School and Teacher Programs, Barbara Bassett.
At each restaurant, students researched, met and interviewed the chef and discussed the design and branding of his restaurant. The students, as guests of the chef, were served the chef’s signature dish for lunch, then sketched a tableau of the meal in preparation for their final artwork project. The tableaux were styled by acclaimed professional food photographers, Michael Persico and Neal Santos.
Returning to my art classroom, the children worked on their still life projects over a sixteen-week period, interpreting the masterpiece meals in acrylic paint using large photographic reproductions printed by Fresh Artists.
The Fresh Palates-to-Palettes project culminates with several activities: a gala reception, tour of the state of the art teaching kitchens and sit-down luncheon for the chefs and project donors called Le Grande Vernissage (French for “varnishing” or private preview) hosted by Chef Michael Traud at Drexel University’s new Center for Hospitality. At that time, the students’ artwork will be displayed and each participating chef will unveil his “Le Choix du Chef” (Chef’s Choice).
In March 2014, the four selected artists, joined by their five Chefs, will be honored by a special cooking lesson and dinner party given by Chef Scott Schroeder of South Philly Taproom, hosted by COOK, a state-of-the-art kitchen classroom.
Metropolitan Bread welcomed 'Fresh Artists Palates to Palettes' project during the Rittenhouse Square Art Festival at their Metropolitan Gallery 250 on the Square, where students gave tours of their artwork and to raise funds for Fresh Artists Palates To Palettes program for the following year.
Fresh Artists will create large-format reproductions of the children’s Choix du Chefs that will be given to SLA and to each chef as a gift from the young artists. These artworks will become part of the award-winning digital art collection which Fresh Artists makes available to corporate clients who donated funds to deliver art supplies to inner city schools struggling with severe cutbacks in art programs.
“SLA is an innovative school with strong vision and Fresh Artists is pleased to work with Ms. Watson in the second-year refinement of this ground-breaking project. Palates to Palettes breaks down barriers for our city youngsters, introduces them to potential creative careers and gives them additional skills and aesthetics with which to interpret their world,” said Barbara Chandler Allen, founder and President of Fresh Artists.
The innovative project receives additional support from Side Project Jerky, creating a limited-edition beef jerky flavor and dedicating the proceeds to fund student transportation costs of the project. Green Street Coffee raised funds for the children’s bus transportation, and many world-famous international chefs have donated their illustrated cookbooks to my classroom. The pilot Fresh Palates to Palettes in May 2013 was the documentary subject of WHYY-TV’s James Beard Foundation Award winning Friday Arts program, The Art of Food.