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“Comeback Kitchen Table,” a Public Art Project that Explored the Important Role of the Kitchen Table to Spark Collaboration, Civic Pride, Public Health, Community and Economic Development

The Revolving Museum and City Arts Nashua involved thousands in the transformation and activation of under-utilized public spaces creating a renaissance in historic downtown Nashua.

Once the centerpiece of family gatherings, meaningful conversations and healthy home-cooked meals, the kitchen table is becoming obsolete in our culture. Research indicates that today’s family rarely sits down at the kitchen table with their loved ones. Instead, they are mostly on the run eating fast foods or sitting in front of TV, cell phones, and computers. These changes threaten the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth of our youth and are contributing to the breakdown of the American family unit.

Led by artist and Revolving Museum Founder/Director Jerry Beck , the “ARTventures: Comeback Kitchen Table,” involved over 1000 local artists and art teachers from local schools, arts groups, businesses, and city departments including Nashua High School South, Pennichuck Middle School, Nashua Alternative High School Program at Brentwood, Academy of Science and Design, 2nd Nature Academy, Nashua Area Artists Association, Picker Collaborative Artists, Nashua Public Library, Gate City Charter School of the Arts, Nashua Transit Authority, and The Revolving Museum Teen Arts Group. Together, they created ten kitchen table and chair environments that respond to matters of personal, social, cultural, ecological, health, and economic issues. Comeback Kitchen Table provided a socially-relevant opportunity for the community to experience a wide-range of artistically-transformed kitchen tables to be located in under-utilized public space in downtown Nashua. These public artworks encouraged the public to sit down, talk, eat, read, play games and investigate the diverse theme of each public art table.

“This project was inspired by my constant struggle to get my family around the kitchen table. I didn’t want all this technology to dominate and segregate us any longer. I wanted to address this phenomena and use public art as a catalyst for family and community dialogue, health and quality of life concerns, urban revitalization and economic development,” said Jerry Beck.

Research has shown that our society is quickly moving away from the family- gathering meals at the kitchen table to eating in front of technology without any connection to real people, authentic conversation or appreciation of the taste, smell, and ritual of food. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who do not regularly eat with their parents are significantly more likely to be truant at school. The truancy rate is about 15 percent throughout the world on average, but it was nearly 30 percent when pupils reported they didn’t often share meals with their families. In addition, children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week are 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do.

City Arts Nashua Board President Kathy Hersh added, “Comeback Kitchen Table project continues City Arts Nashua’s efforts to support artists of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to get involved in making Nashua a more vibrant, beautiful, safe, resourceful, and unified city. It’s already proven that the arts are engines for community and economic development. Many thanks to Mayor Jim Donchess, the City of Nashua, and the downtown community for their generous support of the “ARTventure’s” public art program.”

In support of this project, Nashua Public Library (NPL) and its graphic artist, Rachel Gualco, will collaborate with Gate City Charter School of the Arts, Nashua High School South (NHSS), library visitors, and the public. Gate City Principal Karin Cevasco, teachers and students produced “A Bookish Banquet,” an all-book table, chairs and reading area that will be on display near the entrance of the library. Additionally, NHSS English Teacher JoAnne DelGreco and students created photo essays and assist in a city-wide campaign inviting Nashua residents to submit pictures and writings about the meaning of the kitchen table in their lives. This artwork was exhibited at the NPL.