Enriched Bread artists bake a new way to Cut the Cake

Artist: Bozica Radjenovic. Photo: Rémi Thériault

Can a cake be a piece of art? The Enriched Bread Artists certainly think so and they are determined to prove the point with an exhibition and workshops at their studios in a former bread factory on Gladstone Avenue. ARTSFILE asked one of the artists in the co-op, Christos Pantieras, about Cut the Cake — Celebrate! which will run from Aug. 17 to 31 at 951 Gladstone. Contributing artists are: Sarah Anderson, Marianne Burlew, Heidi Conrod, Tami Galili Ellis, Colette Gréco-Riddle, Marika Jemma, Sayward Johnson, Gayle Kells, Gillian King, Juliana McDonald, Jenny McMaster, Christos Pantieras, Bozica Radjenovic, Mana Rouholamini, Bill Staubi, Cindy Stelmackowich, Svetlana Swinimer, Tavi Weisz, Joyce Westrop, Yvonne Wiegers.

Q. Christos, tell me about the project?

A. Cut the Cake — Celebrate! is funded by the Ottawa 2017 Arts, Culture and Heritage Investment Plan. It is sliced into three pieces: The Big Cake Projection, the Let Us Eat Cake Community Workshops and Cake Stories.

The major piece is The Big Cake Projection. Twenty of our artists are participating. Each one has created a unique, cake-inspired, artwork that has been has been professionally documented and will be integrated in an outdoor projection that will be featured on the east side of our building from 9 p.m.  to 11 p.m. The projection will also feature archival and current images of our building. The entire projection is a narrative. We’re working with video director Benoit Brunet-Poitier. The projection will debut during our vernissage on Aug. 17.

For the workshops, we wanted to highlight the communities that surround our building; specifically Little Italy, Chinatown, Hintonburg and Mechanicsville. There will be three. Two are open to the public and will feature two local institutions and culinary figures. The first is Mooncakes with The Shanghai Restaurant and ChinaDoll on Aug. 20 in the afternoon. The second workshop is Cannoli Siciliani with Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana and Joe Calabro on Aug. 23 in the evening. Both feature establishments and figures well known in the community. They will be telling us their family stories and giving us a taste of their culture and heritage. The third workshop will see EBA artists lead a cake decorating session at the Hintonburg Community Centre’s Youth Summer Experience, a day camp for youth and young adults with disabilities. We’re looking forward to spending a morning with them and connecting over cake.

Cake Stories focuses on the connection between food, heritage, and culture. Everyone has a story to tell that relates to cake. When I was a child, I used to hide under the table and cry when people sang Happy Birthday to me (I’ve grown out of that of course). My other story is linked to my Greek heritage. Every New Year we cut a cake that contains a coin. If you get the piece with the coin in it, you have good luck for the year. These are the types of anecdotes we’re looking for and that we plan to record. When someone is on-site at EBA, we’ll have an area set up so they can tell us their stories. Or email them to  cakestories@enrichedbreadartists.com.  We intend to compile these stories and share them on social media, and catalogue them at Library and Archives.

Q. When did you decide to do this project?

A. In the winter of 2016 we saw the call for project proposals and we recognized that this was a unique opportunity to do something we’ve never done before. The project had to be new and could not be an extension of something we already do, so it was great to come together and get this off the ground. The project leads are myself and Cindy Stelmackowich.

There was a jury process. We first were short-listed, which then meant that we had to make a formal presentation in front of the selection committee. In June 2016 we were one of the chosen 14 projects. We celebrated with some cake and then hit the ground running.

Q. What is the connection to the building Enriched Bread is in?

A. EBA is housed in the former Standard Bread Factory, built in the Roaring 1920s. We wanted to bring attention to the history of our building and its heritage as a bakery. In our archival research we discovered that, in 1967 during the centennial celebration, the Standard Bread Factory was involved in creating the cake cut by Queen Elizabeth on Parliament Hill.

Q. Who are the Enriched Bread Artists?

A. EBA is a not-for-profit co-operative of 22 Ottawa based visual artists. The studios were formed in 1992 by graduates of the Fine Arts program at the University of Ottawa. Today, EBA is one of the largest artist co-ops in the region where artists are able to work, experiment and grow their practice. Our members are quite diverse bringing varied cultural perspectives, such as Tavi Weisz, Bozica Radjenovic, and Mana Rouholamini; queer perspectives from such as Marika Jemma, Bill Staubi and Christos Pantieras, and younger and emerging voices, like Gillian King and Marianne Burlew. We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary in October, so be on the lookout for our Open Studios.

Q. Is food art? Are cakes sculptures?

Definitely. I’ve seen several culinary documentaries featuring high-end chefs. The way they approach their practice has a lot of creativity and thought. Every plate is an artwork. When I think of food as an art material, I think of really exceptional pieces such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), Antony Gormley’s Bed, and Janine Antoni’s Gnaw.

Cakes are definitely sculptural and you’ll see what I mean when you see our projection. The actual cake artworks are being tucked away for now, but will be on full display in the fall.

For more information please see enrichedbreadartists.com

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.