Sunday, October 4th, the sun was high in the sky and the remnants of previous day’s rain had all but dissipated. I made my way downtown, weaved through the light traffic and prayed that I didn’t get lost. I checked the map on my ticket and quickly found the entrance to the Innerbelt, a strip of highway that would soon be closed to traffic.
What greeted me on the other side of the pathway was a sight to behold. People mingled around the highway and in the center stood a massive dinner table set for 500. Music from The Admirables danced through the area and the energy was high.
500 Plates, a project developed by San Francisco artist Hunter Franks, funded by the Knights Foundation, and some of the logistics handled by David Swirsky, is the culmination of months of planning, organizing, and storytelling. A person from each of Akron’s 22 neighborhoods was recorded, photographed, and a family recipe was documented to later be placed on a portion of the 500 stoneware plates used as setting for the community meal.
The purpose was to bring together people from all walks of life to share stories and imagine future uses for the Innerbelt highway. While there I saw many of my friends and even more new faces. I made connections with people that I may not have ever crossed paths with in daily life and that was a beautiful experience.
From what I’ve seen in my life, food has always been the one thing that balances the scales. You can’t argue with your mouth full, so eating forces us to pause and assess. It makes us be present which gives us time to think through what we want to say. It also evokes a sense of community and connects you with others.
The meal was catered by Robert J Events & Catering, but each item was created from the recipes received from the Akronites. All of it was vegetarian which allowed a majority to partake in it all.
Great conversations were had and delicious food was consumed. It was an all around good time and I’d be interested in seeing more projects like this develop.
Thanks for reading,