Introducing Foodways Madison

We’ve returned to Madison, WI, after 18 months abroad, and while we’re still unpacking and finishing up loose ends and documentation from Foodways Melbourne, we’re also already fully immersed in the Foodways Madison project. After focusing on the literal movement of foods (in Darmstadt) and on people’s narratives and language about food in Melbourne, in Madison we’ll be focusing on food systems, from farms to retailers to the waste stream–but also how we can individually understand ourselves as connected to big food systems, and as creators of small food systems.

Jars of sourdough starter.

Wild-yeast sourdough starter which we built in Germany (and used for our famous pancakes) traveled to Australia and then home to Madison with us to help grow future Foodways projects.

This post is just an introduction or placeholder for now, but we want to mention straight away how excited we are to be working with some fantastic local partners. While we will pursue connections and overlaps between all the different components of Foodways Madison (and there will be a lot of them!) it’s shaping up around five sets of relationships.

  1. We are so happy to be hosting the amazing artist group nyamnyam (Ariadne Rodriguez and Iñaki Alvarez), from Barcelona, who will be staying with us through September, teaching at UW as part of the visiting artists series, and collaborating on aspects of things mentioned below. In addition to the excitement of collaborating with them, they and their children are a joy to be around.
  2. We’re thrilled to again be part of the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). We’ve begun some really valuable conversations with the curators about how to give Foodways overall a presence at MMoCA, and especially to have the museum involved in the Feeding Farmers project.
  3. Speaking of Feeding Farmers, we’ve begun rolling out that project, which pairs Wisconsin artists with Wisconsin farmers. We’re deliberately leaving the details of the meals to the needs and desires of the participants, but the short version is that artists will prepare meals for farmers. Sarah Elliot, the Market Manager for the Dane County Farmers Market, was kind enough to meet with us as soon as we returned to town, with some invaluable insight, and we hope to have a formal partnership with DCFM. We also had a great time returning to the market on the square, reconnecting with the vendors who been so important to us over nearly three decades. And we’ve begun talking with artists about pairings.
  4. Another fantastic opportunity for us is a two-month residency at The Bubbler, the Madison Public Library’s hands-on project space, curated by dynamo Trent Miller. This will be the HQ for the collaborative public “research” component of Foodways Madison, and will culminate, we think, in a community book project.
  5. Part of our inspiration for focusing on food systems in this iteration of Foodways is that our jobs at the University of Wisconsin give us potential connection with multiple, well, systems of knowledge about food and foodways, and we’re pleased to have received, through the fantastic UW Center for the Humanities, a Borghesi-Mellon grant to build a Food Studies Network. We’ll have a lot more news about this as the semester begins.

Laurie Beth building relationships (and shopping for dinner) at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Square.


The amazing Bubbler at the Madison Public Library central location.


It’s exciting to be talking with MMoCA about thrilling spaces like this one, “The Prow”.


nyamnyam setting off to explore the Midwest


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