Jeni Hansen Gard – Meal 1 – Les Coates

Project Share
Meal 1

Les Coates
The first week of this project brought me to Wichita, Kansas as a visiting artist at Wichita State University. I carried the set of dishes on the airplane and thankfully after delays and an unexpected overnight stay they survived the trip. I spent the week with the amazing community that came together surrounding a week focused on hunger awareness with workshops, the exhibition Conscious Clay at Ulrich Museum of Art, a panel discussion, and an Empty Bowls event. It was an incredible experience to share my experience with creating Project NOLA with an exhibition of the work as well as speaking with the community about what I did in New Orleans. WSU ceramics was a remarkable place with dedicated faculty members Brenda Lichman and Ted Adler. I was impressed with the caliber of graduate students and had a great time getting to know both Heather Bal and Trisha Coates.

After I finished my workshop on Wednesday Trisha her husband Les and their daughter Magnolia gave me a ride to the hotel. After sharing conversation in the car I knew that Les and his family were the people I wanted to share my first meal of the project with. We decided to share breakfast at Doo-Dah Diner early Saturday morning. The little diner was already busy when we arrived at 8:30. When we got a table I explained to the waitress what Project Share was and she offered to help plate our meal when it came out. Les had an interest in my recent Project NOLA. We talked about current issues of food, hungry, poverty, and homelessness. Les works for First United Methodist Church and after breakfast he brought me to a coffee shop downtown that the church runs. The shop serves great coffee and it also serves the community, what a great idea! Not only do they have a relationship with the homeless population but they also serve meals on Sunday that are free and open to the community. Les talked about the biblical importance of sharing a meal together. At the end of the conversation on our way to the Empty Bowl event he asked me, “Why are you making this work?”

He wasn’t asking why I make and individual plate the way I do or why I used a certain type of surface design. He was asking me to think about the core of my work. Why am I doing these projects? Why am I reaching out to work with a community?

Although I don’t have a clear answer this it is something I will be thinking about for a long time. I make the work I do because I have to. I feel something and I act on it. It took me a while to realize that if I didn’t act immediately nothing would come from all the ideas and in some way they would be lost forever.

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