Inspiring change and hope for the future

How can art and food help us imagine a more sustainable future? This is the question that inspired the project ART + FOOD + NEXT GENERATION, a collaboration between the Rucka Art Foundation in Latvia and Vitenparken in Norway. The EEA Grants’ funded project ran from October 2022 to November 2023 and used art and food to creatively challenge the current and future environmental crises.

“What can food tell us about our future, and how can artistic ways of dealing with food be a part of shaping our futures?” asks Stahl Stenslie, Curator at the Rucka Art Foundation in Cesis, Latvia, in the short film "Shaping Stories".

Addressing climate anxiety in the next generation 

Global warming, war and uncertainty about the future are all factors that have an immense psychological impact on children and youth. According to a 2021 global survey among 10,000 16- to 25-year-olds, 75% think the future is frightening and over half think humanity is doomed. 

“If you think of this as a two-way project where they are hopefully inspired and we are hopefully gaining their insights and their visions for if not the dystopian, at least the hopeful future to come”, says Stenslie. 

That is why The Rucka Art Foundation in Latvia and Vitenparken in Norway have come together through food, art and technology in the ART + FOOD + NEXT GENERATION project supported by the EEA Grants. Together with children, artists and chefs, the project uses art and food as a medium for critical reflection on the ongoing and future crises both in Latvia and globally. The goal? To help the next generation creatively address and deal with climate anxiety and uncertainty about the future. 

Youth and children were invited to partake in creative workshops at the Rucka Art Foundation in Latvia. © Rucka Art Foundation. 

The project brings together an international and interdisciplinary team from both countries from fields such as visual arts, performance, design, media arts, technology, bio-arts, environmental sciences, and gastronomy to work with and engage the youth between ages 10 and 18. 

“What we do is investigate the future from the perspective of the barren days ahead of us, but in a positive sense. Because we do think that we can map out all the possible things we could eat in the future and the positive ways we can combine ingredients, grow ingredients and acquire different tastes”, says Stenslie. 

From workshops to exhibitions: A journey of creative expression 

Kicking off with an engaging online workshop series in October 2022, the project continued into a vibrant week-long festival in July 2023 at Rucka Artist Residency in Cesis, Latvia. The festival featured onsite workshops, exhibitions, and captivating performances all around food and how it can be a part of the environmental solution.

As a creative extension, the project crafted a unique "Eat+Art" DIY kit, dispatched to 150 pupils throughout Latvia. The kit contained everything from seeds grown in space, to paint-your-own plates and cut-out posters of crayfish claws for the children to explore and have fun with. The final part of the project was the newly released short film “Shaping Futures”, following the project. 

“We don’t know what the future will bring or what ingredients will be available. What we are trying to do here with this project is to give kids a toolbox for creative thinking so that they are able to adapt and find fantastic foods - whatever the future brings”, says Zane Cerpina, Project Manager at the Rucka Art Foundation. 

The project culminated with two art exhibitions, one at Rucka in July 2023 and one currently showing at Vitenparken in Ås throughout 2023, showcasing the artworks created by the artists during the residencies. The artworks ranged from installations, sculptures, paintings, videos, and performances to edible art, food experiments, and recipes.  

Artificial intelligence on the menu 

Technology plays a vital part in the ART + FOOD + NEXT GENERATION project, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) used in many of the workshops and art pieces together with creative thinking to imagine the foods of the future, such as how humans can grow food in space and what pizza will look like. Utilizing AI, during one of the workshops the participants speculated, imagined, and pictured future foods together. Following the workshop, the AI-generated ideas were transformed into edible objects such as mermaid soup and edible clouds that were part of the culinary and performative show at Rucka. 

What can our future food look like? © Rucka Art Foundation.

The project included residencies for 12 artists from across Europe at Rucka in Latvia and Vitenparken in Norway, where they explored the local food culture, agriculture, and environment. The artists engaged with the local communities, schools, and universities, through workshops, lectures, and events. The project aimed to foster dialogue and exchange of ideas between the artists and the public, as well as to raise awareness and inspire action for a more sustainable and resilient society. 

The project is part of the EEA Grants’ Programme for Local Development, Poverty Reduction and Cultural Cooperation that aims to contribute to a more equal Europe through the programme areas Culture, Good Governance and Local Development and Poverty Reduction. 

Read more about the ART + FOOD + NEXT GENERATION project here