When Nicole J. Caruth was learning about art, her eyes kept being drawn to the photos of food. Hungry grad student? Maybe. But she noticed its power as she wrote and curated. “Because everyone can relate to food, it can be a vehicle to meaningful experiences with art,” she said in a recent TedX talk.
Now she’s launched With Food in Mind, a Brooklyn-based “nomadic nonprofit,” whose first project is a collaboration with Tattfoo Tan, creator of the Nature Matching System (NMS). He renders farmers market produce in Pantone, Process Color and Behr Paints analogs, for example making rhubarb’s ruby hue a clean C22-M78-Y51-K04—and part of a balanced diet. Their goal together is to use the NMS to teach children about healthy eating, particularly in low-income communities where both nutrition and arts education are lacking or nonexistent.
Called the “Fruity Pop Workshop,” children at NYC-area farmers markets are taught to smash fruits and add soda water, citrus and honey to make their own sodas. They go home with a NMS placemat and some idea of how to colorize their diet—or sell the soda to their friends.
Beyond the farmers markets, Tattfoo has reproduced the NMS color palatte on children’s coloring pages, live show backdrops, disposable paper placemats and more. His excitement over color is not lost in translation: the NMS vegetable coloring book inspires psychedelic renderings in the hands of young artists: a leek re-imagined as rainbow flag, a spindly rock-n-roll asparagus in shades of black, grey, brown and red.
He seems to want to make his citified renderings of fruits and vegetables so ubiquitous that we begin to crave the real thing. Will it work? According to Caruth, “To my surprise, every kid said the soda was really delicious, and one little girl just said earnestly, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’” A small food lover and color matcher, is born.