Free Space: Cameron Granger invites you to dinner

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Dec 08, 2020

Screen shot from cooking video by Cameron Granger and Willowbeez SoulVeg

The temporary closing of the Wex due to COVID-19 rates in Columbus meant that we had to put a premature stop to Everybody's got a little light, under the sun, a program curated for Free Space by filmmaker and Cinetracts '20 contributor Cameron Granger. But for Granger, the project was never fully about film anyway. It's also become an opportunity to actively nourish the community.

That element of his work began with a vibrant 'zine that offers simple, healthy recipes using kale pesto, conjured up by Carnell and Malik Willoughby of Willowbeez SoulVeg. The catering service has worked with the Wex and artists before, having collaborated with Ann Carlson last year on the project The Symphonic Body/Food, and it's been doing regular pop-ups at Hills Market. Granger also worked with the brothers on a cooking video to support the recipes.

This Saturday, Granger and members of our Film/Video and Learning & Public Practice teams will bring this part of the artist's work full circle. From 11 AM to 1:30 PM, they'll distribute the 'zine and ingredients to make the recipes, along with warm, pre-cooked portions and staples such as eggs and bread, at two Columbus locations: Maroon Arts Group's BoxPark at 925 Mt. Vernon Ave. and the Northside Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library at 1423 N. High St.

"I think that making work, making art, can be a really insulating process," Granger says. "Even when you’re someone like me that does work in video techniques, it can still be very insular. I guess this year really made me question that—how much stock I’m putting in that process, with myself and my own work. I’m making things about my communities and my people and why aren’t they included more in the stuff I’m doing?" 

Granger opened his practice up to more collaborators in July with the Get Free Telethon, a 24-hour virtual creative showcase to raise funds for three local charities. "Then, when the Wex approached me about the Free Space project, I thought, this sounds awesome. How can I expand it more and include more people?" he explains.

Granger says that in talking with members of the Wex's curatorial teams, "I was thinking about food stuff and how folks need to be fed, and oh, duh, Willowbeez. I know Carnell and Malik, and Sherri [Neale, creative director for Maroon Arts Group]. We always wanted to work together, so this would be the perfect way to do that. The whole thing is, how do you make sure that you’re not using your communities and the people around you as an extractable resource, and how can you actually make this relationship more reciprocal and more generative?"

"The whole thing is, how do you make sure that you’re not using your communities and the people around you as an extractable resource, and how can you actually make this relationship more reciprocal and more generative?"

Using 934 Gallery as a location and assisted by filmmaker Jeff Grant and photographer Kendra Bryant, who also shot stills for the 'zine, Granger captured the joy and passion the Willoughbys bring to their craft as they present options for using the pesto base in three different ways. Local musician Dom DeShawn provides the video's soundtrack.

"We talked a couple of times on the phone about the project and what my goals were—healthy meals, easy to make, easy on the wallet—and they came back a couple of weeks later with these recipes [for the 'zine]," Granger says. "I guess Carnell called Malik up the night before [the shoot] and told him about it and Malik came up with all the nutritional facts, and they just went for it. It was all great. They’ve worked together for so long and they also used to rap together, so a lot of that came out. They just steered the whole thing in a way that feels so easy."

Granger credited Wex staffers Layla Muchnik, Lucy Zimmerman, Chris Stults, Jean Pitman, and Dionne Custer Edwards for making this weekend's food distribution a reality. 

"I'm an ideas guy. I just throw this stuff out. And people like Lucy help me rein it in and make it doable. Jean has been helping me find stuff like kale and containers. And Layla Muchnik is on it. She's been a huge help."

But Granger is hands-on for Saturday's happenings as well, beyond being part of the crew handing out groceries at BoxPark. "I’m also going to be making a lot of pasta between now and then," he says. "I’ve just never cooked in big batches in my life."

Top of page: video still courtesy of Cameron Granger

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