seed lab PROYECT sOWING ideas BY francesca dubrock
Chris Treggiari and Sergio De la Torre.
The Anchorage Museum’s SEED Lab project at 109 W. 6th Avenue is a new space dedicated to envisioning positive futures for the North. SEED Lab uses art and creative practice to catalyze conversations and potential solutions to Anchorage’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.
This spring, artists Sergio De la Torre and Chris Treggiari visited SEED Lab. De la Torre is originally from Tijuana, Mexico, and Treggiari hails from Boston. Both artists work with communities to address social inequities, with a special focus on topics related to migration. In their project for SEED Lab, the artists decided to work with their friends and collaborators, local farmers and entrepreneurs Manuel Bautista and Soledad Lescas, who are both originally from Oaxaca, Mexico. (You may know them from the delicious produce, tamales, pickles, and salsa that they sell at the Spenard Farmer’s Market).
After spending time visiting farms and gardens, talking about the challenges of growing fresh food in Alaska, and learning a few the secrets behind Manuel’s delicious Mexican pickles, Sergio and Chris decided they wanted to use food to think about migration in Alaska.
Of course, food is a vehicle for cultural exchange, but it is also a very practical way to make a living. More broadly, access to local food plays a key role in the sustainability and resiliency of sub-arctic communities like Anchorage. However, newcomers and small-scale food entrepreneurs often face barriers of access to adequate commercial kitchen space, as well as challenges to mobility and visibility for the transport and sale of goods in Anchorage’s urban sprawl.
To research this topic in Anchorage, the artists talked to many different people, created maps that illustrated people’s grocery shopping habits, documented abandoned and underutilized commercial spaces, and volunteered for an afternoon at Grow North Farm in Mountain View. Their goal with all this research for was to identify potential opportunities to bolster small food entrepreneurship, food accessibility, and supportive cross-sector ecosystems.
At the end of their two weeks in Anchorage, they invited a diverse group of food actors from across the city to present their research, share stories and ideas, and eat Manuel and Soledad’s tamales. At this event, they compiled a list of shared resources and invited participants to envision what improved mobility/visibility for small food entrepreneurs in Anchorage might look like.
Sometimes art can be an excuse to engage people in conversation, and SEED Lab believes these conversations have the potential to germinate new possibilities and better futures.