In 2019, five local artists were commissioned to create works reflecting on racial and economic inequities associated with nutrition assistance programs and how food policy shapes access to healthy food.
In this video featuring the entire Art for KC Voices collection, spoken word artist Glenn North shares one of his contributions: The House of Seven Hungers.
The artwork was commissioned by the KC Voices collaborative, a regional partnership created to lift the voices of residents in low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods. The collaborative works to share stories about how food policies, such as the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Act, shape our communities, our opportunities, and our plates.
After debuting at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center on April 25, 2019, the collection made exhibition stops at the local office of U.S. Congresswoman Sharice Davids, the Jackson County Courthouse, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, and Health Forward Foundation. The art now lives in, and is owned by, the communities it was created for.
This work stems from a $125,000 grant Health Forward received from the Convergence Partnership to use storytelling as a way to transform the regional food system.
After more than a decade spent rallying communities to improve access to healthy, affordable food, KC Healthy Kids was selected to lead the collaborative. Other partners involved in the initiative include Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group, and UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods. Health Forward provided an additional $50,000 to support KC Healthy Kids’ administration of the grant.
More on the artists:
“With this piece I wanted to get across a message of growth and of feeling beautiful despite the hardships we face in life. We often times feel ashamed of needing help or like we aren’t worthy of it but we are all worthy of it. Flowers are all unique just like us. I wanted to paint the humans as flowers to give a new perspective on what we think of when it comes to assistance. Everything on earth needs assistance in one way or another. Just look at nature, all around us is a network of organisms being helped by an outside force. Flowers need sunlight to grow, I used the hands to represent the sun and the help organizations like SNAP give to people.”
Cheyenne grew up in KCK and has had first hand experience with poverty. She’s been involved with a local food pantry for six years and has helped feed many members of her community. Through her experience, she’s learned a lot about food insecurity and how important it is for people to feel secure. She hopes her art will inspire others to find their voice through any form of artistic expression.
“This painting depicts what it would be like to suddenly emerge from a food desert into a place of abundance. The people are a reflection of the various types of people that could benefit from SNAP/EBT/WIC. Within the design and gathering of people, there are fruits and veggies embedded into the surroundings, showing a new-found abundance of healthy food and food security.”
JT Daniels grew up in KCK’s Historic Northeast neighborhood. Recently, JT and his family moved across the state line to KCMO’s Historic Northeast neighborhood, where he worked as a youth advocate at Mattie Rhodes Center for nearly five years.
His use of multi-layered characters, which represent the various people he interacts with in local communities, are woven together with phrases, and transformed into streamlined designs that represent the heartbeat of the urban community.
Natasha Ria El-Scari
Natasha Ria El-Scari explores the faces behind the Farm Bill. The imagined yet real stories of what connects us, frustrates us and requires us to bear witness to the life of those around us. Using real stakeholders and quotes from notes to legislative officials, Natasha creates a “border” that holds stories through poems, instead of isolating them. The grass displayed at the bottom shows farming as a foundation to all food. The various lengths and stories within the poems shows the diversity as well as inclusion of these stories.
Natasha Ria El-Scari is a writer, Cave Canem fellow, and has been an educator for over a decade. She was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry, and performance pieces. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary, and online journals.
Natasha is a founding owner of Rollin’ Grocer, Kansas City’s first mobile grocery store. Though temporarily on a hiatus, the team was authorized to accept SNAP benefits and were partners in the Double Up Food Bucks program.
“The title, borrowed from the popular novels and films, conjures the dystopian notions they espouse and issues an indictment of government officials who are playing games with the health and welfare of our children by limiting their access to healthy food.”
Since 1997, Glenn North has worked in KCK and KCMO to produce arts and culture programs that educate, uplift, and inspire disenfranchised communities.
He has established poetry circles, taught poetry writing and performance workshops in after school programs, and was poet-in-residence at the American Jazz Museum. During that time, he was appointed poet laureate of the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District.
Chico Sierra (Artwork showcased at top of post)
Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Chico Sierra began crossing borders early. As a Mexican-American, he knows that sometimes borders can be fixed and severe, like crossing back and forth between Mexico and the United States. But oftentimes, borders are blurry or even non-existent.
Chico has moved from the United States, to Mexico, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, and back. He is conscious of the flux of cultural diversity. That, in combination with the theme of blurred borders, is expressed in the different mediums of Chico’s art.