This is a thank you, a celebration, an account of an adventure.
March 19th, 2017: the day before the Spring Equinox and the day I started Prints & Plants. I was driving north on 84 toward Española to celebrate the changing seasons on a farm. As I drove I admired the reds, peaches, and yellows that radiated off of distant cliffs against vacant blue skies that beckoned my heart and gaze into the unknown.
In the passenger seat was a Keds shoebox containing a selection of printmaking inks from my studio, some blank paper cut into bookmarks and cards, and a few paintbrushes. I had a question that I was hoping the contents of this shoebox could answer: how can I, we, share the beauty and necessity of the natural world and local agriculture with community through joyful, hands-on projects? My answer that day was to create veggie prints with families at the party using local produce from the Española farm.
I had the butterflies that accompany vulnerability flying around in my stomach. My love for art and food were folded up in one tiny box next to me that, when opened, could manifest inspiration or doubt (or perhaps both) with this community. While the butterflies fluttered, I trekked on with another feeling: this is it! This is a chance to share the value of local food with the people I love. This chance is what I have continued to explore over the past year: one revolution around the sun that has given the seed of Prints & Plants enough sustenance to grow beyond the initial shoebox and out into the community.
March 19th was followed by spontaneous pop-ups in public Santa Fe parks and on trailheads where I struck a deal with the public: make a print, get a bag of fresh, local produce for free with a list of farms where that food came from. People were often a bit skeptical and hesitant. They would cautiously approach me after a hike or run with intrigue and confusion as to why there was suddenly a table of art and food. But as people began to create artwork, I noticed a pattern: we quickly open up to joy when we use our hands, and it is this joy that relaxes us into presence to appreciate the moment. It is this joy that gives us a chance to engage in conversations that need to take place:
Where does our food come from? Who are our farmers? What food systems are present in this country? How can we make daily choices that support the health of our communities, the land, and our bodies? How are race and food related? Who's food stories are we forgetting (or ignoring)? How does income affect food access? How can we strengthen our connections to, and support for, the people growing food? How can we better educate ourselves and each other about food equality, justice, and access in our community? The list goes on.
I often wondered if printing with veggies would seem trivial, simple, or child-like. But then, through sharing this act, I realized that this is not such a bad thing. Entering into simplicity makes space for the joy that is a bridge for deeper conversations and connections to occur.
As 2017 progressed into 2018 Prints & Plants collaborated with many community partners: Santa Fe Farmers' Market, Sol Wellness, Santa Fe Art Tours, Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, Walden Forest School Co-Op in Los Alamos, Santa Fe Public Schools, Santa Fe Community College, Cooking with Kids, Strangers Collective, and more.
With each of these collaborations I tested new ideas: carving relief prints using local veggies as inspiration, creating paper using garlic skins, painting paper and snow with natural pigments collected from an array of foods.
Not all of these activities went according to plan (like the giant wind and rainstorm that struck the Southside Market blowing all inks, papers, veggies, and tents every which way causing no injuries, thank goodness, but resulting in a group of drenched people who supported each other in response to the unexpected).
There's still room for environmentally-friendly improvements (I'm still trying to find/create an ink that is compost-friendly when printing activities are complete).
There's always more room for the hard conversations (What can you teach me? What can I teach you?).
And I never have all of the answers (How do you explain to a three year old why you bring chicken eggs inside when "to eat them" or "so they don't get damaged" isn't enough of an answer?). But nobody has all of the answers, and I don't think we want them all - not just yet, anyway.
The "why?" questions, the "I don't know" responses, not only about food, but about our communities, about violence, peace, and equality are spaces for us to connect and reconnect as fleshy, vulnerable human beings over a morsel or a meal. Food is the integral historic, essential, nutritious thread that connects each of us to one another, to plants, to animals, and minerals in this life. This connection reveals that we are not separate and not so different. How can we pull on this thread to tighten our community and discover answers to our collective and individual questions?
We are so grateful for the immense support you all have given Prints & Plants since our beginning. It makes us realize that this isn't just our one year anniversary, but an anniversary of real hands-on human connection with each other, the land, and you. As we make our way into the upcoming rotation of seasons in 2018, Prints & Plants will continue to ask questions and carry the inks, veggies, and paintbrushes that we hope hold the answers.
We so look forward to entering year two together.
Light, Love, Peace,
Founder and Leader of Prints & Plants