Meat, veggies and The Dairy

Inaugural Taste of Art festival puts dinner on display

Carole Topalian

The flood pushed things back a bit. But it was still nearly a year ago that Mallory Cates originally approached The Dairy Center for the Arts to pitch them on an art show about food. For Cates, who ran a company making spreads and tapenades and knew a lot of writers and photographers from her time in publishing, it seemed like a natural fit. Still… 

“I’m not sure if it’s called the idea yet, or if I should be taking the blame,” she says.

The reason she’s hedging her bets is that Cate’s initial pitch of a photo exhibit showcasing the work of Edible Publications co-editor Carole Topalian has spiraled into a four-day edible artstravaganza that will completely take over The Dairy and several other venues from June 12-15: A Taste of Art.

“What we’re looking for is all sorts of ways to celebrate food from an artistic standpoint,” says Bill Obermeier, executive director at The Dairy Center for the Arts.

Those ways include art exhibits, workshops, collaborations, Connect performances, competitions, lectures and no short- with us age of snacking. As far as events go, it’s a mouthful.

For starters, there is the exhibit from Topalian, who is something of the Ansel Adams of alfalfa.

“Carole’s work is so exceptional,” says Cates. “She’ll show you the hands of the farmer that is plucking the tomato off that vine. She really puts emotion into her work” 

But more than just displaying her photos, Topalian will be teaching a workshop on food photography, which — despite the online deluge of instagrammed dinners — is some of the trickiest photography to master.

Also in the photography vein will be a documentary on the winemaking in Burgundy, France, followed by a Burgundy tasting, another about the foraging movement, and a third called Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds, that will include a Skype discussion with the filmmakers afterwards [see review on Page 48].

Boulder’s lunchlady extraordinaire, Ann Cooper, will give a presentation called, “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children,” and teach a workshop on food preparation for kids that will use art as a vehicle for learning.

“She is known as the lunchlady, but Ann Cooper is way more than that,” says Cates.

In addition to her noontime activities, Cooper has authored multiple cookbooks and lectured worldwide on children’s nutrition.

Another workshop will address the more adult topic of “The Art of Plating,” with Chef Shawn Edmonds, an instructor from the Escoffier culinary school. That’s a topic that will also rear its head at the Iron Chef Competition, in which three top local chefs will be paired with three top local artists, one to cook and the other to plate. Let the prettiest carrots win.

Perhaps the most abstract presentation will come from 3rd Law Dance Theater, who in addition to food, will be celebrating their long residency in The Dairy with a retrospective.

And much, much more. 

“It is much bigger than what I originally envisioned,” says Cates.

“I think we got everything in this year that we could handle in the first year,” says Obermeier.

Obermeier says that in the last six months that The Dairy has been putting together the festival, in addition to all the normal issues that come with multi-day cat-herding, they faced the additional struggle of not really having anywhere else to look to for advice. Music and film festivals can look to their peers in other communities, as can straight-up food festivals. But so far as Obermeier knows, there isn’t anything else quite like A Taste of Art for them to emulate. They had to figure it out all on their own. But that may well be because of Boulder’s special relationship with food.

“We feel good about the fact that Boulder is such a foodie community, we feel this is a real natural fit,” says Obermeier. “We’re excited that it could be a real popular event. Just how popular, we don’t know yet.”

Of course, one major draw for A Taste of Art is that, with the exception of two ticketed off-site events (Artful Hors d’oeuvres and Barbecue, Blues and Brews with the Jack Hadley Band%u2028in McGuckin Hardware parking lot), it’s free. But perhaps the biggest appeal is that oldie but goodie: punch and pie, or at least, artful photographs of them.