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Kansas City Artist Uses Bread As A Means Of Social Change

Sean Starowitz
Courtesy photo

Bread can serve as an important connector between people.

It can fuel discussions, break through social barriers and institute change. 

A 2014 Charlotte Street Foundation award winner, Sean Starowitz is an artist whose work is hard to place on the walls of galleries. As the artist-in-residence at Farm to Market Bread Co., his projects often focus on bread and community. 

"Sometimes I'll introduce myself as just a bread baker. And then sometimes I'll just introduce myself as an artist," Starowitz told Up to Date host Steve Kraske. "So it kind of depends on the role in which the project is occurring. Because it opens up people differently."

Interview Highlights: Sean Starowitz 

On the connection between bread and art 

"Well, they're both inherently the same kind of practice, right? It's about craft, it's about technique, it's about aesthetics, it's about quality of ingredients or quality of approaches. For me, they're inherently the same."

On the "live experience" of funding artists with BREAD!KC

"The idea is we host a meal, we charge a fee, that fee guarantees you a ballot and a meal, usually between three to five courses. As you eat your meal, three artists or cultural workers present projects that they need money for. We cast a vote. Whoever gets the majority of the votes gets all the money we collected.

Since 2010, we've been able to raise $23,000 for various projects. It's the live experience, it's not as streamlined, it's a little more gritty (than Kickstarter), but also it's not also just about the money. But it's about having a room full of 150 people, listening to your idea for 15 minutes."

On artists addressing vacant lots 

"I would bake fresh bread and occupy a vacant storefront ... the idea was that it (Fresh Bread) would be this kind of hope, and this positive transformation of vacant space, but also activate the street."

On creating a space to take a pause

"It's really about starting a conversation ... Food is that access point. Food is that table. I actually think of my practice as more of a table designer and so, 'How do I create spaces that people feel welcome? 'How do I create spaces where people feel comfortable coming to the table, sharing their perspectives?' 

... For me, it's about creating that pause. And allowing people to be themselves. And see themselves within a greater scheme of either Kansas City, or the community they're part of." 

Steve Kraske is the host of KCUR's Up To Date. Follow him on Twitter @stevekraske.
Danie Alexander is the senior producer of Up To Date.
Laura Spencer writes about arts and culture for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @lauraspencer.