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Continued: A dinner table for 2,000 on St. Paul's Victoria St.

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 15, 2014 - 10:53 AM

But looking at cost and preparation and the whole idea for this meal, we ultimately decided that we don’t always have to have a dessert with a meal.

Q: What’s going to happen on the day of the event? Besides eating, of course.

A: It’s going to be a big piece of art, a big piece of social sculpture.

Folks will be seated all at once. We’ll read grace by G.E. Patterson, who was commissioned to write it. The servers will bring the food from the serving stations to the table performing a set of movements choreographed by Ananya Chatterjea [artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre]. I’ve always had this vision of looking up from the top of the street and seeing those graceful moves of the servers bringing the food to the table.

Once we sit down, we’ll eat, and we’ll begin this dinnertime conversation.

We’ll depart with a closing. I don’t want to use the word “prayer.” We struggled with that. It’s not a benediction. It’s a closing. Five poetic lines, composed by [poet and seminarian] Soyini Guyton. We will all start to leave and we’ll be enlightened by a performance by a group of spoken word artists, who have been commissioned to work with elders in their communities.

Q: How many people does it take to stage a dinner for 2,000 people?

A: There’s a core team of about seven folks from Public Art Saint Paul, and about 400 volunteers. There are countless farmers, fabricators and family that are all pitching in to make this happen. It’s free for those who attend. We’ve been raising money to keep it free. The money that we’ve raised is going back into the pockets of farmers and artists.

Q: Can you share some specifics about this table?

A: It’s one long table, even across the intersections. We’re going to close Victoria from University Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue, it’s not quite a half-mile. We’re not going for a record for longest table. We decided that setting a record is not our focus.

We’re using it to begin a real suppertime conversation about food. We hope that people walk away with a pledge to become more involved in the food system.

Q: Where does someone get their hands on a half-mile-long table?

A: We thought for about 10 minutes about building a table, but that was way too crazy.

We’re renting tables and chairs from a rental company. We called them last year. There are 42 tables per block, and eight people per table. It’s assigned seating. People will be getting their tickets in the mail.

Q: I’m trying to picture a tablecloth stretching from University Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue, in the style of Christo, the artist famous for wrapping landmarks in fabric. Is there one?

A: That was going to be one of the big elements that we ended up having to drop. We were going to do a half-mile long tablecloth. We did a prototype, but the reality of the costs, and then what to do with it afterwards, were just overwhelming.

We thought of taking the same approach that Christo does — cutting it up, having people purchase pieces of it — but I wanted the focus to be on the food. There will be a tablecloth, but it’s coming from the rental company.

One artistic element that remains are 2,000 handmade placements, made from handmade paper from Mary Hark, an internationally recognized papermaker.

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