Food is Love: Tanya Fields, Ben Hall, and Mary Mattingly in Conversation

Food is Love:  
Tanya Fields, Ben Hall,
and Mary Mattingly in Conversation

Thursday, November 16, 2017
6 to 8pm

Mary Mattingly,  Swale  from above, Concrete Plant Park. Photo courtesy of Subhram Reddy, 2017.

Mary Mattingly, Swale from above, Concrete Plant Park. Photo courtesy of Subhram Reddy, 2017.

Food is Love explored the intersection of food, politics, activism, and art, referencing artistic and activist interventions in local communities. The panel, moderated by Sara Reisman, Executive and Artistic Director of The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, brought varied experiences to the table, with Tanya Fields, founder of the BLK ProjeK, which focuses on developing opportunities for underserved youth and women of color; Ben Hall, who works in advocacy and education, distributing 5,000 gallons of soup throughout Detroit each week; and Mary Mattingly, known for her large-scale public, agricultural artworks including The Waterpod (2009) and Swale (2016).


Inspired by her experiences as a single working mother living in a marginalized community, Tanya Fields founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009 as a response to sexist institutional policies, structurally reinforced cycles of poverty, and harsh inequities in wealth and access to capital that result in far too many women being unable to rise out of poverty and sustain their families. Fields' numerous fellowships and commitment to professional development has connected her with a national cohort of social justice change agents. With a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Baruch College, a talent for public speaking, blogging, and singing, and representation by Speak Out!, she has become a sought after public speaker.  She provided widely praised keynote speeches at the 2012 Just Food conference, the City University of New York School of Professional Studies 2013 commencement, the Marion Institute’s Connecting Through Change conference, and the 2016 Greenthumb Conference: Grow Together, to just name a few. She has served on several plenary panels and lead and facilitate workshops across the country. Previous to the BLK ProjeK, Fields worked with several high profile environmental organizations located in the South Bronx - Mothers on the Move, Sustainable South Bronx, and the Majora Carter Group.

With a strong following on Facebook and Twitter, she created and stars in Mama Tanya’s Kitchen, a web based cooking and lifestyle show. With, a heaping amount of sass and a dash of sass, Fields teaches viewers how to cook affordable, diverse meals with gourmet flair. Her episodes and Facebook Lives are becoming quickly popular and attracting attention in the food world.

She is a sometimes writer, previously writing a column on food and food justice for and contributed a chapter for the book The Next Eco-Warriors by Emily Hunter.

Ben Hall is a visual artist, composer, chef, and activist from Detroit, Michigan. As an artist, Hall has shown at Yale University, Socrates Sculpture Park, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, and has a forthcoming solo show at the end of this month at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit entitled Slow An Alarm Until It’s A Tone. As a percussionist and composer he’s performed at Lincoln Center and MoMA and his label brokenresearch has produced 50 recordings across all media. His digital collection of African-American spiritual music,, is the most comprehensive archive of it’s kind. Hall was a 2014 Kresge fellow in composition. He was formerly a regular contributor to the experimental music magazine The Wire and has written for BOMB.

As a chef, Hall owns Russell Street Deli, a heritage restaurant and soup manufacturer, with business partner, Jason Murphy. Together, Hall and Murphy have raised more than $125,000 for Gleaners Community Food Bank, producing 375,000 free meals, and are the only local independent meal producer for Detroit Public Schools, providing vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, low sodium soups for free to 55,000 children and teens. Hall and Murphy have both presented congressional briefings on the challenges surrounding entry level jobs and the limits of growth for workers subjected to both the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage, $2.13 an hour. Additionally, Hall has lobbied both Congress and the House for the Global Food Security Act with Oxfam and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and in October was in DC lobbying for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Mary Mattingly is an artist based in New York City. She founded a floating food forest in New York called Swale and recently completed Pull for the International Havana Biennial with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Mattingly’s work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography, the Seoul Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, and the Palais de Tokyo. Her work has been featured in Aperture, Art in America, Artforum, Art+Auction, ARTnews, Sculpture Magazine, The New York Times, Financial Times, Le Monde, New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal, and on BBC News, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, WNBC, and on Art21. Her work has been included in books such as the Whitechapel/MIT Press' Documents of Contemporary Art series titled “Nature” and Henry Sayer’s A World of Art, 8th edition.