The seven-course meal, which costs $150 a person, has been created to showcase platters, bowls and vases made by a ceramic artist.

Five nights a week at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, 16 people sit down to dinner. But they’re not at a museum cafe. They’re in the exhibit space, at a long pine farmhouse table set all day long with platters, bowls and vases made by a ceramic artist.

The seven-course meal, which costs $150 a person, was created to showcase pottery by artist Gregg Moore, and the meal has drawn rave reviews from foodies. But in Moore’s view, the food isn’t art. Neither is his pottery, no matter how attractive one finds his delicate renderings of fruits and vegetables on the handmade platters.

The art, Moore says, is created by the experience- the food, ceramics, museum space and people who dine there together.

“The people who are eating are works of sculpture, and the piece isn’t complete until the people are sharing this meal together,” Moore said.

What’s social practice art?

Moore’s exhibit, titled Heirloom, and the nightly dinner, called Table d’Hote, is part of a movement known as social practice art. Social practice art seeks to bridge the gap between everyday experiences and traditional concepts of art. It’s also designed to draw in people who might otherwise be unlikely to visit a traditional art museum.

“It’s about breaking down any sense of elitism and making people see that art is for them,” said Jen Delos Reyes, an artist and faculty member in Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice Program, in Oregon. “Artists can operate in ways that don’t involve the studio-gallery paradigm.”

Other efforts

As part of a Portland social practice program called Shine a Light, local brewers toured the Portland Art Museum, and they then developed beers inspired by the collection, including “The Drunken Cobbler,” an 18th-century painting by Jean Baptiste Greuze.

Another evening, museum-goers got tarot card readings from a deck designed to showcase the museum’s paintings and sculptures.

Delos Reyes said interactive elements help “create a relationship between artists’ creative skills and engaging the viewer physically.”

In Detroit, an artist created a full-scale replica of his childhood home, with the intention that it be used for social services. The home has a detachable facade known as the Mobile Homestead. After a summer stint in Los Angeles, it will return to Detroit and serve as a mobile lending library in communities where libraries have been shuttered.

Involves many fields

Social practice art can involve many fields, including music, drama, and culinary arts, as well as social issues like hunger relief and literacy. The interdisciplinary approach allows artists to weave in various aspects of their lives and interests. Moore, for example, is a passionate gardener, and the work he created in Philadelphia depicts produce from his own garden as well as drawings from an 18th-century French agricultural text.

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