Sunday, December 5, 2010


About a year ago I received an email regarding a woman, Heather Buechler, who was considering applying to UT for grad school. She had written the school explaining her interest in an interdisciplinary practice that would allow her to combine independent research in the realms of "food and culture studies" with art making. I swooned. The language she used very concisely summed up the things I'd been doing but struggling to articulate in an "elevator statement."

We corresponded briefly and she mentioned wanting to organize a possible Tour de Meat (or Tour de Charcuterie?) in Madison. I don't know for sure if the tour happened but stumbled upon her blog while googling myself (I know, I know...). Her interest in food culture is unique to me in that she is specifically interested in the culture and history of meat. I know there is a burgeoning culture of micro-charcuteries and rock star butchers but as Heather points out in her blog, it's one thing to read about things going on in New York and quite another to find those same trends going on in middle America. One of the benefits of a city like Knoxville (or Madison) is that it is not hyper-saturated with everything (young-educated people, schools, art galleries, micro-breweries, hotels, whatever...)-- you can make things happen more easily, more inexpensively, and be somewhat of a pioneer the small pond.

Similarly, I argue that the experiments in culture, music, food, art, and community that go on in small towns are more sustainable in that they have to work with communities that are historically not as supportive of the arts (or the foreign) as cities like New York and LA. That is to say a little more mainstream. And that's a good thing. At the end of the day, I want things like the Urban Land Scouts or Tour de Plants to be mainstream. Or more mainstream than they are now. Mainstreaming would mean that more people are engaged in the ideas, but also that the ideas come under greater scrutiny and (hopefully) emerge stronger and more profound. Iteration is necessary for growth.

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