The City of Jackson has been chosen a Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge recipient, one of three out of two hundred applicants from across the country.

Former New York City mayor, public health advocate and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg was in town to personally make the announcement at a press conference on Congress Street.

The grant will be used to fund “Fertile Ground,” the submitted project that brings together an interdisciplinary team of artists, chefs, filmmakers and others to create city-wide exhibitions that aim to inform policy related to nutrition.

“We take often a lot of cultural pride in our food and our history here, but we understand that a lot of the foods that we eat and the food insecurities we see are often a measure of the historical challenges that our communities have faced,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said.  “Many of the things we cook and take pride in today are because our forefathers and foremothers had limited access to fresh opportunities. We still see communities that have food insecurities and don’t have access or don’t make the proper choices in the things they eat.”

“If we want to build that radical city that I believe we will become, we have to ensure we have healthy citizens,” he added.

Mayor Bloomberg, commenting on the parklet where the press conference was being held, noted its subtle but meaningful role in making the city better.

“I’ve always believed that the arts were smart investments for cities,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Art makes cities more beautiful places to live. And, I’ve always thought culture attracts capital more than capital attracts culture.”

Bloomberg cited examples from Detroit, New York and the recent Paris Climate Summit where artists have contributed “powerful messages” through public art.

“Our judges – and I was not one of them – were impressed with your project ‘Fertile Ground,'” Bloomberg explained. “This will be a community-wide effort and I hope it not only leads to greater access to healthy food here in Jackson but that it also inspires a conversation that spreads out across our country.”

Participating partners include Jackson Medical Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Jackson State University and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Participating artists include:

  • Kara Walker, a nationally celebrated artist known for her exploration of race, stereotypes and gender throughout American history.
  • Adrienne Domnick, a local artist whose work is an exploration of sound, light, bold colors on a variety of surfaces. 
  • Award-winning filmmaker, director, and producer Keegan Kuhn, and local director and producer Roderick Red, who both work with nonprofits and focus on social issues.
  • Mark Bittman, the country’s first food-focused Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times and faculty member of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
  • Nick Wallace, included on 2017’s “Best Chefs America” list and the Mississippi’s first Food Network’s “Chopped Champion,” is a leader in redefining the Southern food experience and also provides healthy food options for local schools.
  • Ron Finley, frustrated by his community’s lack of access to fresh, organic food, turned a parkway in front of his South Central Los Angeles home into an edible garden.  The experience blossomed into a quest to teach communities how to eat and take control of their food sources.
  • Cindy Ayers, Footprint Farms
  • daniel johnson, Significant Developments
  • Scott Allen, muralist and owner of A+ Signs and Creative

Special recognition was also given to Jackson’s Planning and Development Division – specifically long-range urban planners Travis Crabtree and Salam Rida – who discovered and initially applied for the grant.