Fresh Artists’ Palates-to-Palettes: “I never thought food could be art!”

Fresh Artists has joined forces for the second year with the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (SLA) and top local restaurants to introduce kids to the art of culinary masterpieces – both on canvas and on the plate.


In 2012, Art teacher Deva Watson partnered with Fresh Artists to collaborate on the development of a highly innovative four-month pilot program - Fresh Artists Palates-to-Palettes. This multifaceted curriculum exposes 7th grade students from SLA, a South Philadelphia charter school located near the Philadelphia airport, to masterpieces in fine art and fine cuisine while introducing them to a variety of career paths in the creative economy.


Watson began by teaching her students about the art of the still life, starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a private tour of food-themed still life masterpieces in their collection led by Curator of Education for School and Teacher Programs, Barbara Bassett.  At each restaurant, students researched, met and interviewed the chef and discussed the design and branding of his restaurant.


The students, as guests of the chef, were served the chef’s signature dish for lunch, then sketched a tableau of the meal in preparation for their final artwork project. The tableaux were styled by acclaimed professional food photographers, Michael Persico and Neal Santos. Noted portrait photographer Susan Beard donated her expertise by documenting the children’s experiences at the museum.


Returning to Watson’s art classroom, the children worked on their still life projects over a sixteen-week period, interpreting the masterpiece meals in acrylic, oil pastel and collage using large photographic reproductions printed by Fresh Artists.


The children returned to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in January to learn about careers in the art world with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum’s new Art Handling Facility with Fresh Artists Founder, Barbara Chandler Allen (former Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Director of Registration) and more gallery time with Education Curator, Ms. Bassett.


Their third trip as guests of the Philadelphia Museum of Art brought them right into Steven Starr’s Granite Hill Restaurant kitchen where they spent over a hour with Executive Chef Gerald Drummond and met the lobsters that were then served to them in Chef’s signature dish for lunch. They had a private a demonstration of food styling by the Museum’s Education Department and sketched the still life created from the ingredients used to prepare lunch.


The Fresh Artists Palates-to-Palettes project culminates with several activities: a gala reception, tours of  state of the art teaching kitchens and a sit-down luncheon on March 18 for the chefs and project donors called Le Grande Vernissage (French for “varnishing” or private preview) hosted by Chef Michael Traud at Drexel’s new Center for Hospitality.  At that time, the students’ artwork will be displayed and each participating chef will unveil his “Le Choix du Chef” (Chef’s Choice).