Community Engagement through Food and Art: Slideluck Potshow brings Baltimoreans Together
By John Geilfuss
Sometimes the answer is right in front of you or in this case right in your backyard. Eleven years ago, Casey Kelbaugh, found himself discouraged by the scarcity of opportunity for local artists to showcase their work. “I was frustrated by the lack of outlets for creative expression and community engagement,” said Kelbaugh. He adds, “Everyone I know was creative, but there was no vehicle for bringing people together in celebration of that creativity.” So Kelbaugh went searching and found his answer by simply stepping out the backdoor.
The solution: set up a few extra chairs and picnic tables in your backyard, invite friends, family, and fellow artists over for a potluck dinner and promote local talent.
The result: an international phenomenon that’s spread to over fifty cities worldwide and has featured over 5,000 artists, not to mention the Guinness World Record for the Largest Potluck Ever. Under the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 2010 approximately 1,000 people came together registering 479 dishes during the New York Photo Festival to beat the previous potluck record held by Promise Margarine.
Slideluck Potshow is an idea that brings people together and creates a platform for them to tell their story and, as every artist will tell you, there is always a unique tale to tell. Last Friday, at Area 405 in Station North, over 300 people witnessed thirty-six artists share their individual stories. Mediums covered a wide variety of subjects from Alison Harbaugh’s focus on Indian camel farmers to Joe Foley’s images of bikers on race day to Eli Kaplan’s portrayal of drag queens. No matter the subject, each showcase was personal and revealing. One featured artist, Dayna Smith, used collage and eyes to tell her tale. “Eyes are the starting piece of almost every piece I create. As a symbol of awareness, focus, clarity, and vision there is truth in the saying ‘eyes don’t lie.’”
Aside from various stories and local artwork, what makes Slideluck Potshow so unique is the food and casual atmosphere. Friday’s spread included appetizers such as an exquisite clam and orzo dip, a zesty szechuan eggplant entrée, and of course a Baltimore based dinner wouldn’t be complete without Berger cookies for dessert. Following the food and slideshow, the after party was jump started and highlighted by live music. Swampcandy, an old school stomp and boogie band, delighted guests with a riveting show resulting in dancing, lively spirits, and a great time. One such guest was Sadia Coleman who accidentally stumbled onto the show several years ago while shopping in Washington D.C. An amateur performing artist and fan of all art forms, Coleman has attended shows in D.C., New York, and Baltimore. According to Coleman the show contains, “Good vibes, good people, good artwork, and good food.”
Slideluck Potshow Baltimore II was made possible by Piper Watson, a local photographer whose mainstay is weddings. Watson first attended a show at Fotoweek in Washington D.C. nearly three years ago and was so impressed with the idea that she contacted Kelbaugh about hosting one in Baltimore. “I thought it brought people together in such a wonderfully casual and warm way- which is sometimes quite daunting for an artist- that I really wanted to bring it back to Baltimore,” stated Watson, who had missed the first Baltimore show in May of 2010. In a matter of just a few short months, the American Society of Media Photographers, along with Station North and Area 405, had put all the pieces together for a successful and exciting evening.
For those interested in learning more about Slideluck Potshow, you can visit their website at www.slideluckpotshow.com. Dedicated fans with a taste for international flavor may like to attend one of their upcoming shows in Barcelona, Paris, or London. Those not quite ready for a European vacation can find upcoming shows in Philadelphia, D.C, and Cleveland. Oh and one more perk, all Slideluck Potshows are affordable as the cost of admission is usually only five or ten dollars, and on certain occasions the shows are completely free.