Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Public Markets...Public Art

I love public markets. Here under the shelter of solid roofs or sturdy awning, I can find fresh products of farming and fishing.  The face-to-face banter with sellers is a tonic in contrast to the drone of supermarket shopping.  Solid spaces for these markets also give the attending public everyday access so that "stocking up" isn't necessary.  A fresh supply of food and company is available 7 days a week.

The Project for Public Spaces ( enlarges on the role of public markets.  "The power of public markets to contribute positively to a city’s image must be understood in the context of the long urban tradition in Europe. For centuries, local government established market laws and constructed special buildings and spaces that demonstrated its commitment to protect citizens from spoiled food, high prices, food shortages, and merchandise that did not meet standard weight or measure. Sales of perishable goods were carried on openly, at specified times, so that anyone passing by may judge the quality of goods and witness transactions."

Currently in Seattle, Washington, I've strolled through Pike Place Market, purchased fruit from multiple vendors and sampled the goods of many.  The willingness (perhaps necessity) of vendors to offer samples of their product both demonstrates their honesty and draws the buyer into an informal relationship (even if for a moment).

In the same vein, a large company, Vital Tea Company, has tasting 'bars' where you might sample a dozen teas in a genial obligation-free environment.  For a real food-is-art experience, there are walnut-sized tea cakes that, when covered in hot water, bloom into a garden of flowers and foliage in a clear teacup.  
I've marveled at the the company's percentage of sales to people who just casually stop in to enjoy the relaxed hospitality (unlike...forgive the Seattle sacrilege..Starbuck$). 

Open galleries and public art in parks provide a similar experience: a free and uncloistered look at a community's creative spirit.  Outdoor sculpture along walking and biking paths can be thoughtful or whimsical.
A Chihuly glass garden is under construction at the Seattle Center. 

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