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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke in Downtown Jackson in 2018. Photo by Ross Reily

Bloomberg announces Jackson to receive $1 million for public art project addressing nutrition and food equity

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks with reporters following a press conference in Jackson on Thursday. Photo by Ross Reily

Philanthropist, public health advocate and former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg joined Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba to announce that the city has been named a Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge winner. Jackson will receive up to $1 million for its project, “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue About Food Access,” which aims to inform policy related to nutrition by using art as a medium to communicate the complexities of the issue in the city.

An interdisciplinary team of local and national artists, landscape architects, filmmakers, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, and community members will come together to create a city-wide exhibition with installations, performances and programming. Workshops and panels will address challenges stemming from a proliferation of fast food restaurants in the area and the need for healthy food opportunities for the community.

Sites will include public streets, community gardens, a local elementary school, a vacant building that will be converted into exhibition space, and a food lab with pop up kitchen space that will act as an experimental food incubator.

Mike Bloomberg said, “This project, ‘Fertile Ground,’ will bring together artists from all walks of life to discuss barriers to healthy food in Jackson, Mississippi. Lack of access to healthy food is a challenge in many communities across the country, and this project is a great example of how local artists can help spur conversations around important issues.”

Mayor Lumumba said, “The city is overjoyed to have been selected in this process. This was a highly competitive grant where over 200 cities around the world applied to be a part of this Public Art Challenge. And so, to be able to aid in the aesthetic appeal of the city while delivering a message of healthy eating for the citizens of Jackson is a truly remarkable opportunity and we are ecstatic and look forward to seeing this project come into fruition.”

Partners will include local arts councils, community organizations, restaurants and cafes as well as the Jackson Medical Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Jackson State University and the Mississippi Museum of Art. Select national and local participants who will inform both the creative process and food related programming include:

  • Kara Walker, a nationally celebrated artist known for her exploration of race, stereotypes and gender throughout American history.
  • Adrienne Domnick, a local artist whose work is an exploration of sound, light, bold colors on a variety of surfaces. Through her work in Jackson’s Midtown community, Dominick leverages her creative perspective to bridge the gap between community and art.
  • Award winning filmmaker, director, and producer Keegan Kuhn, and local director and producer Roderick Red, who both work with nonprofits and focus on social issues.
  • Mark Bittman, the country’s first food-focused Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times and faculty member of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
  • Nick Wallace, included on 2017’s “Best Chefs America” list and Mississippi’s first Food Network’s “Chopped Champion,” is a leader in redefining the Southern food experience and also provides healthy food options for local schools.
  • Ron Finley, frustrated by his community’s lack of access to fresh, organic food, turned a parkway in front of his South Central Los Angeles home into an edible garden.  The experience blossomed into a quest to teach communities how to eat and take control of their food sources.

Walter Hood, a landscape architect, participating in the project said, “I am delighted to be collaborating with the ‘Fertile Ground Project’ and local community to create a lasting and sustainable sculptural work that is at once a powerful reminder of how landscape and food are symbiotic to our lives.”

For a list of all participating creative partners, downloadable images, and more information, click here for a media kit courtesy of the City of Jackson: https://bit.ly/2TvMaGF.  To keep up with the project updates please visit the Fertile Ground project page.


About the Public Art Challenge:

In February, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues, and demonstrate an ability to generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies.

More than 200 cities applied for the 2018 Public Art Challenge with proposals reflecting diverse artistic mediums addressed a range of pressing issues and social themes such as community development, environmental sustainability, cultural identity and immigration.  Fourteen finalists were announced in July.

Earlier this month, Anchorage, Alaska was the first city to be announced as a winner in the 2018 Public Art Challenge for “SEED Lab,” followed by Coral Springs in partnership with Parkland, Florida for “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art.” Additional winning cities will be announced in the coming weeks.


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