Art project serves up soup, soil and windmills

    Soil samples, windmills, homemade soup, brownfields and the “Don Quixote.” These are the ingredients of a new temporary public art installation sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.

    The Northern Liberties project combines cooking, composting and wind energy.

    At the corner of  Second and Girard streets, a statue of Don Quixote points to an abandoned building. A newly built windmill sits on top of the roof. On a windy day, it turns large spools attached to the ceiling of the first floor.

    On the ground floor, people eat free soup and learn how to build windmills out of bicycle rims, roof flashing and PVC piping.

    Soup ladles full of dirt hang next to empty test tubes in the window. This six-day installation is called “Soil Kitchen.” Artist Amy Franceschini says she was inspired by the Miguel Cervantes novel.

    “I think the symbol of Don Quixote is one of self-reliance and imagination,” she said.

    But many would say Don Quixote, who chased windmills, symbolizes foolish idealism.

    “He does have this amplified imagination. But the message is that it’s really an apprehension of the future industrial revolution that was coming at that time,” she said . “And I think then we have this green revolution that’s in the forefront of people’s minds right now, but we don’t even know what that means and what the interests of that revolution really are.”

    Franceschini said the modern-day Quixote dilemma would be: use the green revolution to continue making money or build a sustainable future?

    David Gleason, who lives just down the street, stopped in to have some soup and learn how to make windmills. Gleason said the nuclear crisis in Japan and the revolutions in the Middle East have him and his friend rethinking energy options.

    “It’s a fascinating and confusing time. And I guess if you want to get grand about it, you could imagine these types of events could make us all feel more tangibly involved in something that feels abstract and seemingly beyond our control,” he said.

    The installation invites residents to bring in soil samples for testing, read “Don Quixote,” and take a brownfields tour of Northern Liberties. It will be up until Wednesday.

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