In this Season of Light, we reflect on some of the highlights and outcomes of our years-long interdisciplinary work of advancing good. This year, we celebrated Grace Farms’ 6th anniversary. As we look back at some of the outcomes we accomplished together, locally and globally, we are reminded of how a hopeful space intentionally designed to break down boundaries between people, architecture, and nature creates possibilities.
“To realize that space could communicate a set of values and a way of being, as well as to draw different people from around the world, was the inspiration for Grace Farms.” – Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder, in Madame Architect, 2021
While still under construction, the space of Grace Farms is activated with inaugural programming.
In the New Chamber Ballet performance (above), for instance, dancers elegantly combine music and movement as they connect with the Grace Farms construction site and one another. Watch these talented dancers help “warm-up” the space with this sophisticated new work. This video is part of a compelling series that offers a glimpse into how artists activate the space at Grace Farms even while construction is underway in 2014. This collaborative event sets the stage for the Foundation’s unique approach to interdisciplinary arts programming.
Below are additional photos from “Warming up.”
A new kind of public space opens
After years of planning and construction, Grace Farms opens as a new kind of public space for people to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith within 80 acres of expansive landscape. Seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape is the River building, designed by architects Kazuko Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, founders of the Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm SANAA. The River building receives the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP, 2014-2015). This prestigious award acknowledges the best built works in the Americas.
“… the first question that we asked was, ‘what could we do here that cannot be done elsewhere in the world to advance good?’ Then the idea for Grace Farms germinated when an architect friend of mine said, “space communicates.” – Sharon Price, CEO and Founder, Grace Farms Foundation, in an interview in The CEO Forum, 2020
Inviting people into our work
Soon after opening on October 9, our Community Initiative launches its not-for-profit Space Grant program, which supports not-for-profits, government agencies, and quasi-governmental agencies on the front lines of service by offering access to space at Grace Farms. The Space Grants’ program brings together leaders and organizations across sectors, including experts from our five initiatives, to address and consider new outcomes to our humanitarian challenges.
Learn more about our Space Grants program.
Similarly, the Community Initiative also launches Community Dinners to bring diverse communities together over a wholesome and delicious meal prepared in our Commons. Our Community Dinners meals provide an introductory window into our five initiatives, where visitors are invited to after-dinner programing to hear from artists, authors, and thought leaders that are engaged with innovative work that addresses our humanitarian challenges.
Combating human trafficking
Grace Farms Foundation convenes a workshop with United Nations University (UNU) and 100 experts to address human trafficking. This workshop leads to a proposal of 25 specific recommendations detailing action for the Security Council to fight human trafficking in conflict areas. The report published by UNU, a UN think tank, results in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2331, which condemns all instances of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts.
Launch of annual Earth Day celebration
Grace Farms launches its annual Earth Day celebration with programming that focuses on our restoration of 80 acres of natural landscape, conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, and community enjoyment of open space.
The Arts Initiative develops a process-focused approach called Practicing, a series of workshops, projects, and programs led by Arts Initiative Creative Director Kenyon Victor Adams that applies rigorous thinking and making to questions framed by multiple perspectives. Practicing is an interdisciplinary series examining empathy, awe, silence, and joy. Workshop method leverages various ways of knowing and treats the creative process as a dialogical space. This unique process allows artists to develop their work at Grace Farms and has since been presented at The Met, Met Breuer, and BAM with Andrea Miller of GALLIM Dance and Silas Farley, choreographer and former New York City Ballet dancer.
First LEED certification
The River building becomes LEED certified, recognizing Grace Farms’ sustainability measures in the following areas such as:
- High-efficiency mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems
- 55, 500-foot-deep geothermal wells that facilitate energy-efficient heating and cooling
- Water conservation
- Low-heat island effect (from the aluminum roof)
- Monitoring of air quality and energy use
In 2017, the Arts Initiative develops projects that share the content of the Practicing Silence workshops with an increasingly larger and more diverse audience at Grace Farms. The year-long investigation served more than 1,400 participants of all ages.
The Practicing series at Grace Farms brings together artists from diverse disciplines to participate in contemplative discourse and a collaborative creative process that leads to the creation of a new performative work that is shared with the public.
Below (center) is Silas Farley, the acclaimed choreographer and former New York City Ballet dancer.
Race & American Memory
We invited Ibram X. Kendi, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction and The New York Times best-selling author, to discuss his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
The discussion is a continuation of Grace Farms’ Race & American Memory, an ongoing free series launched in 2015 that examines the ways Americans comprehend and recall U.S. history.
Bringing back the American Kestrel
Grace Farms ongoing restoration of the native environment brings back the American Kestrel to the area by restoring native meadows and installing nesting boxes. The Kestrel, the smallest and most common falcon in North America, is beneficial to the environment and farmers due to its consumption of crop pests. It was once on the list of threatened species in Connecticut, and has since been down-listed to “special concern” in 2015, according to the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Since our restoration of native habitats at Grace Farms over 100 species of birds have returned to Grace Farms and the area.
Visual artist Julianne Swartz’s debut of a 16-channel sound temporary installation, Joy, still. explores the multifaceted aspects of joy. This multisensory works — Joy, still. in the Sanctuary, Transfer Objects in the Library, and Prelude/Postlude in the corridor that connects the Sanctuary and Library sites — are directly inspired by Foundation’s Practicing Joy workshop, a multifaceted study involving poets, theologians, composers, musicians, choreographers, dancers, chefs, and humorists.
“And joy is not always talking about joy, but it is also talking about sorrow and despair, so we will know what joy is.” – Julianne Swartz
Critically acclaimed composer and singer Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble (Ellen Fisher, Katie Geissinger, Allison Sniffin, and Jo Stewart) are on site for a 10-day residency — which includes a public performance and family workshop. During the residency, Monk creates projection elements for the then unfinished Cellular Songs, which are inspired in-part by the Grace Farms landscape. Cellular Songs premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) a month later and is celebrated in a The New York Times‘ review.
Carrie Mae Weems
Grace Farms Foundation invites acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems for a residency during which she continues her ongoing investigation of violence. Weems’ contributions include a public lecture and a full-cast presentation of her performance-based work, Past Tense.
“Her decades-long meditations on recurrent subjects, including violence, systems and consequences of power, and sexism resonate with the Foundation’s core initiatives. Her interdisciplinary work will add a new perspective in our mission to create more grace and peace in the world.” – Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation
“I think artists are always trying for, struggling for, clamoring for, unearthing, digging for what is most authentically true about their understanding of the world and how they fit in it.” – Carrie Mae Weems, The New York Times, 2018
Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group
Our CEO and Founder, Sharon Prince, continues to illuminate the issue of modern slavery in the building materials supply chain and to initialize a radical paradigm shift towards a slave-free built environment. She brings together more than 60 leaders to join Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group, a first-of-its-kind initiative. This working group lays the foundation for the official launch of Design for Freedom in 2020.
Collaborations to confront trafficking
The Justice Initiative disrupts modern slavery, gender-based violence, and environmental crimes by empowering local, national, and global justice systems, non-governmental agencies, and the public. Leveraging our law enforcement expertise and our unique interdisciplinary approach, while working in concert with our partners, allows us to implement policy and build capacity.
By entering into Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs), the Justice Initiative has built capacity over the years. For instance, the Foundation enters into a MOU with Liberty Shared, a global counter-trafficking nongovernmental organization (NGO), to combat human and wildlife trafficking. The Foundation also announces a (MOU) with Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), a multilateral law enforcement organization representing eight eastern and southern African countries, dedicated to investigating violations of national laws pertaining to illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, to disrupt poaching and wildlife trafficking in Africa.
“Building strategic partnerships and working together to strengthen the multifaceted initiatives of law enforcement are vital elements to successfully combat the global impact that stems from these wildlife crimes.” – Rod Khattabi, Chief Accountability Officer & Justice Initiative Director for Grace Farms Foundation
Grace Farms and its Nature Initiative host and create the local and regional Pollinator Pathway project, a nation-wide movement that protects and establishes essential native habitats for pollinators, including bees and butterflies.
Awarded second prestigious LEED certification
Grace Farms’ 80 acres and operations requires a daily commitment, one that restores and protects our fragile ecosystem both locally and globally. Our stewardship commitment has made significant progress, including the reduction of greenhouse gases and restoration of native habitats. In recognition of our efforts, the Foundation receives it second prestigious LEED Silver certification for Operations + Maintenance, led by Adam Thatcher, Director of Operations and Sustainability. Paired with Grace Farms’ 2016 LEED Certification for Building + Maintenance, we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to sustainability.
The urgent need to combat gender-based violence
Our stake in the ground is to end modern slavery and gender-based violence. Through an interdisciplinary approach that brings together stakeholders across the public and private sectors, we also raise awareness through our public programming.
Of the many noteworthy events, we invited the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege to join Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof to discuss the urgent need to combat sexual violence against women and girls in conflict zones. Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned gynecological surgeon, founded Panzi Hospital in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999 to provide the women in his community with access to high-quality maternal health care.
Humanitarian Impact of Conflicts in the Middle East
General David Petraeus, Institute for the Study of War (ISW) board member, and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, joins former Senator Joseph Liberman (I-CT), ISW board member, Jennifer Cafarella, Director of Research at ISW, Dr. Kimberly Kagan, President of ISW, and Rod Khattabi, Director of Law Enforcement & Risk Officer at Grace Farms, for a discussion on the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and their importance to U.S. national security and values, including human dignity and freedom.
A year of crisis, a year of hope
The CEO Forum Group selects Sharon Prince and Grace Farms Foundation for the 2020 Transformative CEO Award in Leading Through Crisis in the category of Community. “This has been bestowed for the unprecedented heroic efforts … “
On March 9, Grace Farms closes to the public, one of the first organizations in Connecticut to close as the initial wave of COVID-19 spreads through communities. Grace Farms pivots and turns its 80-acre site and operations into a humanitarian hub to confront two escalating crises: the dire need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and food.
We mobilize our operations and supply-chain experts to source, purchase, track, and load thousands of PPE supplies delivered from overseas onto trucks in our parking lots. In cross-functional unison, our teams support these round-the-clock efforts. During the most critical phases of the pandemic, the Foundation secured and donated a total of 2M PPE, including 500,000 N95 respirator masks and other medical necessities to fill the gap for our frontline workers in 55 different organizations, 17 hospitals, and 27 municipalities. The launch of the Grace Farms Relief Fund for Connecticut and the Grace Farms Alliance Against COVID-19 accelerates these efforts. Alliance partners include: the Town of New Canaan Emergency Management, Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc., Building and Land Technology, Greenwich Economic Forum, Helena Foundation, and XJ Group.
While confronting the dire need for PPE throughout the state, Grace Farms also accelerates its food relief efforts, increasing the number of wholesome culturally-sensitive meals donated each week from about 500 meals per week to nearly 2,000 meals per week.
By the end of 2020, Grace Farms delivers over 168,000 pounds of healthy food to over 67,000 individuals.
Design for Freedom launch
Although slavery is illegal in every country, from human trafficking to forced labor, it continues with impunity. In the fall of 2020, Grace Farms Foundation CEO and Founder Sharon Prince launches Design for Freedom, an unprecedented and ambitious movement to end forced labor in the building materials supply chain. She brings in more to than 60 global industry leaders across the ecosystem of the built environment to join the movement.
The public launch includes the publication of a ground-breaking report, Design for Freedom, which provides analysis and data on how forced labor is cemented into the very foundations of our buildings; a dedicated website (designforfreedom.org) with tools, resources, and original content; and a visiting lecture series and public events with numerous academic institutions such as Yale University, Cooper Union, and Pratt Institute to educate future architects and the public about this pressing humanitarian issue.
The Architect’s Newspaper hailed the Design for Freedom report as “historic” and the Design for Freedom launch is featured in 30 printed and online publications, including Architectural Record, Fast Company, and Madame Architect. The Design for Freedom report was edited by Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder, Grace Farms Foundation, Chelsea Thatcher, Creative Director and CMO (Executive Editor of the report), and former Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Justice Initiative Sr. Advisor, Luis C.deBaca.
Ethically manufactured face mask
Herman Miller and Grace Farms Foundation introduce a limited-edition, ethically manufactured face mask, with proceeds supporting Design for Freedom, a new movement to eradicate modern slavery from the building materials supply chain. The mask, which was conceptualized and curated by Chelsea Thatcher, Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer of Grace Farms, was released to coincide with National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Designed in collaboration with architects Shohei Yoshida, Principal of shohei yoshida + associates / sy+a and formerly of SANAA, and Peter Miller, Founding Partner of Palette Architecture and formerly of Handel Architects, the Design for Freedom face mask is inspired by the internationally award-winning SANAA-designed River building at Grace Farms. Herman Miller and Design Within Reach are the exclusive retailers of the Design for Freedom face mask.
Moments & Fieldnotes
The layered crisis presented by the COVID–19 pandemic intensifies and amplifies systems of oppression that have for centuries defined our shared reality. With this context, Grace Farms Foundation’s Arts Initiative returns to an archive of programming records from the past five years, with a new guiding question: What practices are required to sustain life and liberation? This inquiry led us to the following selection of resources from the 2018 Practicing Joy program, featuring a chorus of interdisciplinary perspectives from those who convened at Grace Farms to study the nature, agency, and proclivity of joy. It is our hope that their insights serve as a source of fortitude in the days ahead.
Reconnecting with nature
Nature Initiative Director Mark Fowler launches, along with other online programming, News 12’s Road Trip Close to Home. In a year filled with challenges due to COVID-19 our exploration of nature brings us hope and engages us during a time of prolonged isolation. The series reaches a potential audience of 9 million viewers each week.
Addresses trafficking and gender-based violence
The Justice Initiative engages more than 700 people through in-person and virtual justice awareness and training content. The initiative provides training on the topics of forced labor, trafficking in persons and environmental crimes, as well as training on gender-based violence. The Justice Initiative also forms eight new partnerships to increase the global footprint of capacity building programs.
The Justice Initiative launches Survivor Voices | Human Trafficking, a new series focused on building awareness around human trafficking and gender-based violence. In addition, drawing on the expertise of law enforcement officers, the Justice Initiative addresses the growing incidences of violence against women in two webinars, offering guidance to help victims and survivors find a path to safety.
Partnership to advance disruption of forced labor
Grace Farms Foundation and Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Global Trade Investigations Division form a partnership to advance their shared missions of disrupting and combating forced labor around the world. Grace Farms Foundation and HSI sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreeing to work together to convene law enforcement personnel for capacity building opportunities and trainings.
Responding to unprecedented needs
In recognition of the uncertainty and stress caused by the pandemic, the Community Initiative launches the Caring for Community series, which consists of three digital programs focused on wellness and healing trauma, developed in collaboration with professionals that focus on well-being. Internationally recognized movement, meditation, and wellness expert Pilin Anice creates digital programing series Movement for Healing, which is designed to create a sense of connection during stressful times. Other experts that contribute to our caring series include Mary Fetchet, a licensed clinical social worker and Founder of Voices Center for Resilience.
“Love is the power that sustains us”
Through our ongoing partnership with the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps, Dr. Matthew Croasmun, Faith Initiative Director, invites U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Thomas Solhjem to speak about the warlike aspects of the pandemic. This conversation, which reached over 9,000 people around the world, reminded us that love is what sustain us in difficult times. The Chaplains Corps take care of the diverse spiritual needs of thousands of Army soldiers around the world, including their families and army civilians, addressing some of the most important questions of their lives.
Watch In a Time of Crisis
Books on Faith & Meaning
In a year of isolation due to the global pandemic, our Faith Initiative responds by creating a virtual space to discuss texts spanning multiple religious and philosophical traditions, both ancient and contemporary, to encourage us to think critically about the meaning in our lives.
Here’s a conversation between our Faith Initiative Director Dr. Matthew Croasmun and Professor Willie James Jennings. They examine Professor Jennings’ powerful vision of life and mutual belonging, how we might reimagine the intellectual heritage of Christian theology, with a goal to transgress boundaries that have existed for centuries.
Share in Something Greater | Launch of Grace Farms Foods
In early 2021, Grace Farms Foundation created Grace Farms Foods to invite everyone to be part of the Foundation’s mission. Grace Farms Foods is a public benefit corporation, 100% owned by the Foundation. This means every purchase not only demonstrates the charitable purposes of Grace Farms Foundation, but also gives back 100% of profits to support the Foundation’s work.
Sharon Prince partners with Carrie Mae Weems on PPE for Native communities
Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation has partnered with artist Carrie Mae Weems and her Resist COVID/Take 6! initiative to issue an urgent call to support Native communities with life-saving PPE. To date, Grace Farms has delivered more than 44,000 medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare centers that support Native communities in Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.
Grace Farms Reopens with new exhibits, experiences
What is Grace Farms and how does Grace Farms Foundation advance good in the world? An immersive installation inspired by nature, Peace Forest offers visitors an interactive experience highlighting how the landscape, architecture, and people at Grace Farms are part of the Foundation’s mission. Pedestals made with ethically sourced steel and wood repurposed from the site gently sway when touched, and feature text, objects, and archival photos. The installation is curated by Grace Farms Foundation Creative Director Chelsea Thatcher and designed by Peter Miller (Palette Architecture) and Shohei Yoshida (shohei yoshida + associates / SYA), members of the SANAA-led design team for the award-winning River building at Grace Farms. Graphics were designed by Pentagram.
Common Good Through Crisis
Can we continue responding in the interest of the common good after a crisis? Designed by MASS Design with graphics by Pentagram, this exhibit considers the relationships and connections that inspired Grace Farms Foundation’s efforts to provide food relief to hundreds of thousands, 2 million critical PPE to frontline healthcare workers, and public programming to address the uncertainty caused by the pandemic for all. This work was made possible through our collaboration with the State of Connecticut, a partnership commemorated at a ceremonial bill signing by Governor Ned Lamont in July 2021.
“We had health care workers, nursing homes, small business, everybody you know, circling the Capitol, saying ‘Where’s my PPE? I need it now … We were looking all over the globe, and then I heard about this place Grace Farms? Hold it. These guys got two million pieces? How do we learn from this? That was a lifesaver. Soon after Grace Farms helped lead the way, we got the PPE we needed.” – Governor Ned Lamont, CT Post, 2021
Tracy K. Smith | U.S. Poet Laureate
Tracy K. Smith, the 22nd United States Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Harvard professor, reads her poems and share unique insights in response to the Arts Initiative’s interdisciplinary study of time at Grace Farms. The New York Times says Smith’s “poetry is a shortcut to honest conversation, a way of getting past small talk to probe the spots where our culture is most sore.”
Against the Grain| A new series on food equity and innovation
As the economic and humanitarian impact of the pandemic continues, and our commitment to addressing food insecurity deepens, we are raising awareness about this ongoing issue by highlighting the organizations achieving profound change through innovative strategies and collaborative models.
Hosted by Community Initiative Director Karen Kariuki, the series shares inspiring stories from FEED Projects, Soul Fire Farm, Rockefeller Foundation, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Freight Farms, Grace Farms, and Grace Farms Foods.
Alyson Shotz | Temporal Shift
As part of the Arts Initiative’s interdisciplinary study of time, Grace Farms Foundation presents a new commissioned site-responsive sculpture from artist Alyson Shotz. Made of mirror polished stainless steel, Temporal Shift interacts with natural light and animate an interior courtyard of the SANAA-designed River building, describing time as the seasons change. The sculpture will be on site through September 2022.
Marcus G. Miller | Beauty & Logic
Miller, an acclaimed saxophonist and mathematician, leads audiences on an exploration through beauty and logic. A long-time collaborator of Grace Farms Foundation, Miller has performed at the Obama White House, Madison Square Garden, The World Economic Forum at Davos, The Montreux Jazz Festival, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert alongside Jon Batiste, and at Carnegie Hall.
Justice Initiative | Partnerships to combat wildlife trafficking
Grace Farms Foundation and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) announce a partnership to advance their shared missions of disrupting and combating wildlife trafficking. The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is another important outcome of Grace Farms Foundation’s work with global agencies to combat environmental crimes.
Grace Farms Foundation, through its Justice Initiative, partners with HSI to provide global trainings and capacity building opportunities with the goal of fostering relationships within the anti-wildlife crime community.
The joyous return of Gifting for Good
After being closed for 18 months due to the pandemic, Grace Farms welcomed more than 200 people to participate in Gifting for Good, part of Grace Farms’ Season of Light holiday programming to give back to others during the holiday season. With the help of Grace Farms’ neighbors in New Canaan and beyond, volunteers filled 1,004 backpacks with socks, toiletries, gloves, books, games, and food staples for pre-school, middle school, and high school students in need. Grace Farms Foundation partnered with Filling in the Blanks, a not-for-profit helping Connecticut families experiencing food insecurity. Dozens of volunteers from our staff helped deliver these backpacks to 32 schools and service providers around Fairfield County.
“At Grace Farms, we believe that positive change is made when we build and sustain our communities, and we are grateful to work alongside our partners in this work. Gifting for Good shows the power of what our community can accomplish when it comes together to advance good.” – Karen Kariuki, Community Initiative Director
New visitor engagement experiences
The launch of daily facilitated, family-friendly activities developed in concert with the Educators at the Connecticut Science Center, explores topics including ethical supply chains, sustainable foodways, and the intentionality of architectural design. These interactions serve as pathways into the larger work of Grace Farms Foundation.
We invite you to Grace Farms to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith. During our new visitor engagement experiences, find out how you can help us advance good together.
In 2022, we look forward to compounding good with hundreds of long-term and new partners, our growing membership base, leadership advisors, and our advocates. The coming year line-up is awe-inspiring and includes Indra Nooyi, former Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, Elizabeth Davis, an investor at the Female Innovators Lab, and Robert Mande, the Assistant Director in Charge of the National Anti-Poaching Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for Tanzanai.
Here’s more information on getting involved in our work, including our new membership program.