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“A Table Set For Forever”
Jane Beatrice Wegscheider- Winner of the 2008 Pioneer Valley Sustainability Network’s “Art of Sustainability” contest speaks about the project

Brief description: “A Table Set for Forever” is a portable, multi-media, installation piece that honors existing individual and collective efforts at sustainability while engaging the viewer/participant with questions, ideas, images and visual metaphors related to sustainability in our region.

Detail on Art work
“A Table Set For Forever” is a portable, multi-media, installation piece: a kind of permeable “room” that can be set up anywhere. The central visual motif is a table and six chairs. The table top is a garden-theme mosaic made of colored glass tiles and bits of broken plates (pique assiette technique). The mismatched (‘recycled”) wooden chairs are painted as blackboards, with questions related to sustainability in our region written on in colored chalk (and viewers are invited to contribute). Six free-standing curtain-like panels in portable frames are set up around the table. Each of the two-sided panels is made of a collage of seed-packets sewn together with images (both photographic and drawn/painted) and text derived from relevant literature and local community sources. The panels are set up around the table and chairs so that people can walk between and around them easily, in and out of the “room”.

An essential part of the piece is that it involved the participation of many other people in its process. The artist, Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, sent out and distributed (in local businesses, libraries, etc.) written requests for participation in the sustainability dialogue, beginning with the question: “What does sustainability mean to you?”

Jane solicited answers to these additional questions:

Do you feel motivated to live a more sustainable lifestyle? (and if so, what or who has motivated you?)
What are some of the things you do to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
What are some of the challenges of living a more sustainable lifestyle?
What ideas and solutions for sustainability have you considered?
(These could be dreams or inventions you have in your mind but haven’t tried yet...or things you’d like to do but don’t know how to yet.)
Do you have any questions that would challenge people to think about sustainability in a new way? (for example, “how much is enough?”)

And these answers informed the work.

The artist organized several dinner parties, featuring local food and great conversation about sustainability, as part of the development of the work of art. For each conversation, she brought together groups of six-10 people from varying segments of our communities to share their ideas and brainstorm further sustainability activism. These conversations were recorded and excerpts from them became the audio component of the installation, as well as source material for the seed-packet collage panels.

Jane Beatrice Wegscheider’s basic premise is that dialogue/conversation/the sharing of ideas (especially person to person) is essential to sustainable activism. Sharing thoughts and ideas around a shared meal is a way to combine activism with community-building. In the conversation about sustainability, we are also talking about basic needs and resources, of which, food is one primary need.

Jane is convinced that small actions need to be honored along with bigger systemic efforts. People change and accept change in different ways. Her aesthetic is generally an “accessible” one. The seed-packet “curtain”/panels will show the significance of ALL actions, ideas, questions, etc. that collectively add up. Even on their own these panels will be a stimulating and informative visual discussion.

the table as metaphor
the table as place
the table as community, family, the future
the table shared
the table abundant
the table as an edible landscape

Jane used the pique assiette technique (broken plate mosaic), along with the garden theme, to refer to the past that is a part of us.
The chairs have questions painted on them to represent the challenges of joining the sustainability discussion/dialogue/effort.
The “walls”/ “curtains”/ panels are permeable to suggest visually that this is not a behind-closed-doors conversation. The seed packets are a literal metaphor: seeds produce multiples of themselves. They symbolize growth and potential.
The installation is purposely portable, each element breaking down into carry-able pieces so that it can more easily become part of various local environments/public spaces: farmer’s markets, schools, outdoor cultural events, etc.

This installation is the first phase of this project. The second phase will involve developing the audio component further for web and radio and developing ways to use the installation to disseminate physical cards (for people to take with them) with ideas and information on them. (Jane imagines letter-pressed “information” on vegetable-shaped cards in bowls on the table.) The third phase will be the organization and facilitation of having the installation travel to schools, libraries, farmer’s markets and other public venues.

If you would like to host this work of art in your community.