Programming to Include a Site-Specific Commission by Alyson Shotz, Two New Installations, and a Panel Discussion Highlighting Ethical and Sustainable Supply Chains in Fashion
Sharon Prince, Founder and CEO of Grace Farms, a humanitarian and cultural center serving local and global communities, today announced that Grace Farms and its award-winning River building designed by SANAA will reopen to the public on September 8, 2021, with new visitor experiences and enhanced onsite programming.
With spaces connected by Beatriz Milhazes’ 108-foot-long wall painting Moon Love Dreaming (2016), the West Barn includes a dedicated area offering the public a place to receive information about daily programs and activities that span the Foundation’s five initiatives—nature, arts, justice, community and faith. The public will also be able to view two new installations that will illustrate the Foundation’s work to address pressing humanitarian issues such as forced labor in the building materials supply chain, and food sovereignty and security.
Grace Farms will also present mission-activated public programming, including seasonal nature walks and astronomy programs on its 80-acre property, art and architecture tours, lectures and panel discussions, book discussions, and community dinners. A variety of ethically sourced products that highlight the Foundation’s mission can be purchased in the West Barn and elsewhere on site. These products include a new line of cookies, whole bean coffee, and herbal tea made available by Grace Farms Foods, a public benefit corporation 100% owned by Grace Farms Foundation.
“Over the past year, Grace Farms Foundation mobilized and addressed two intersecting and pressing crises during the pandemic—securing critical PPE for our frontline healthcare heroes and alleviating food insecurity for our neighbors,” said Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder, Grace Farms Foundation. “As we reopen to the public on September 8 with new programs and installations to invite both reflection and action, our humanitarian work continues with our committed team and cross-sector partners. We look forward to offering enlivened experiences which can enhance our relationships and understanding of each other, our local and global communities, and our natural environment. Grace and peace are taking shape here, and we are eager to welcome people back for a new season of collaboration.”
The reopening will feature the debut of Alyson Shotz’s commissioned site-specific sculpture, Temporal Shift, on view through September 2022. Made of mirrored polished stainless steel, the reflective work will interact with natural light and animate an interior courtyard of the River building, describing time as the seasons change. The sculpture is a part of the Art Initiative’s ongoing interdisciplinary study of time, led by Kenyon Victor Adams, former Arts Initiative Creative Director and Pamela Ruggio, Arts Initiative Curator.
An immersive installation inspired by nature, Peace Forest offers visitors an interactive experience highlighting how the landscape, architecture, and people at Grace Farms advance the Foundation’s mission. In the West Barn, visitors will encounter a grouping of pedestals made with ethically sourced steel and wood repurposed and recycled from the site, which feature text, objects, and archival photos, and gently sway when touched. A video installation and a map of Grace Farms will indicate onsite activities and offerings each day. The installation is curated by Creative Director Chelsea Thatcher (Grace Farms Foundation) and designed by Peter Miller (Palette Architecture) and Shohei Yoshida (shohei yoshida + associates / SYA), who were members of the design team for the River building.
On Saturday, October 9, a new space for the public will open in the East Barn, including a gallery featuring rotating exhibitions. The inaugural installation, Common Good Through Crisis, considers the relationships and connections that inspired Grace Farms Foundation’s efforts to provide 2 million critical PPE to frontline health care workers, food relief to 125,000 people, and public programing to address the uncertainty caused by the pandemic for all. An immersive installation, in which the public can participate in weaving, connects individual stories to a fabric of interconnectedness, and poses the question about an urgency and power in continuing to act for the common good, not just in times of crisis. Common Good Through Crisis is designed by MASS Design Group with Eddie Opara and his team at Pentagram. Grace Farms Foundation’s work to close the PPE gap at the height of the pandemic was furthered through collaboration with the State of Connecticut. This partnership was commemorated earlier this week when Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed an ethical procurement bill at Grace Farms.
Additional daily on-site visitor engagement experiences throughout Grace Farms will consist of 10 to 15-minute pop-up talks and family-friendly activities developed in partnership with the STEM Educators at the Connecticut Science Center. With topics including the exploration of ethical supply chains, sustainable foodways, and the intentionality of architectural design, these interactions serve as pathways into the larger work of the Foundation.
Self-guided activities include:
- Tour the River building and Barns and view permanent art installations by Beatriz Milhazes, Teresita Fernández, Thomas Demand, and Olafur Eliasson.
- Hike around Cattail Pond and through the restored native meadows along a one-mile loop with 10 different habitats and breathtaking views.
- Participate in fun activities in the subterranean glass-enclosed Court, from basketball and badminton to board games and puzzles in the upper mezzanine.
- Engage with River Retreat tours authored by Yale Center for Faith & Culture scholars that engage with the Faith Initiative and its core question: what is the shape of flourishing life?
- Enjoy tea and conversation in the Pavilion.
- Walk through the Community Garden tended by Master Gardner Lauren Elliott and visit the apiary to see the produce grown at Grace Farms and its Italian honeybees.
In the Commons, Grace Farms is continuing to offer fresh food and beverages available for purchase Tuesday-Sunday. On Tuesdays, the same healthy and delicious meals served to visitors to Grace Farms are also donated to the community, as part of the Foundation’s food relief program in partnership with local not-for-profits. Throughout the 2021-2022 season, Grace Farms will continue its food relief work in Fairfield County. Grace Farms has provided healthy meals to more than 125,000 people since March 16, 2020. Proceeds from food sales in the Commons help support the program.
As a part of Grace Farms Foundation’s Design for Freedom campaign, which raises awareness of forced labor in the building materials supply chain, Nora Rizzo, the Foundation’s first Sustainable Materials Director, will lead public tours on October 23 and November 13 that highlight ethical and sustainable building materials. In buildings worldwide, glass, brick, timber, stone, and copper are vulnerable to being produced with forced labor, and this tour will offer guidance for asking questions about material sourcing for a professional or consumer.
On November 6, Jay Fielden, former editor of Esquire, will moderate Woven – A Panel on Community, Fashion and Sustainability, featuring a group of innovative industry leaders, who are reshaping the world of fashion, by weaving values, vision, and a commitment to a better tomorrow into their companies and products. This program is a part of a series that will explore materials, like textiles, highlighted in the Design for Freedom movement.
On July 22, professional athlete, actor, and activist Victor Rivas Rivers will virtually join Justice Initiative Deputy Director Alina Marquez Reynolds virtually to discuss the importance of understanding the many facets of domestic violence and the role each member of a community can play to shift the culture and make a positive impact.
Highlights of the Nature Initiative’s programming include birdwatching with master birder Frank Mantlik; wildlife encounters with falcons; pollinator walks with the founders of Pollinator-Pathway.org; seasonal walks of the grounds; and opportunities for families to learn about astronomy with guest experts. In celebration of Earth Month in April, Grace Farms will present screenings of Kiss the Ground, a documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies.
Popular monthly Community Dinners will return on the third Friday of each month, paired with thought-provoking programs. Additional Community programs will include Melissa & Doug Co-Founder, Melissa Bernstein, who will discuss her new book, Lifelines, with Community Initiative Director Karen Kariuki, on September 30. The conversation will address how Bernstein leveraged nature, art, creativity, and community on her journey toward wellness. On November 19, Marcus G. Miller, an acclaimed saxophonist and mathematician, will lead a workshop on how to explore the world, ourselves, and our community through beauty and logic.
The Faith Initiative will continue the successful Life Worth Living course (October 5- November 16), a seven week online academic program hosted on-site at Grace Farms and led by Dr. Matthew Croasmun, Director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, with Katie Grosh from Yale University Divinity School. Another series consisting of monthly presentations will introduce selections from the Faith & Meaning section of the Grace Farms Library. Spanning multiple religious and philosophical traditions, both ancient and contemporary, these texts encourage people to think critically about the meaning in our lives. The series will feature: Martin Nguyen, Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, widely considered one of the top Muslim theologians, who will discuss his most recent book Modern Muslim Theology (September 14); Dr. Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology at Duke University will read from his latest book This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World (October 12); and Dr. Asha Shipman, the Director of Hindu Life and Hindu Chaplain at Yale University, will speak with Dr. Matthew Croasmun, Grace Farms’ Faith Initiative Director, about the Bhagavad Gita, the scriptural text that calls for selfless action and righteousness (November 12.)
During the holiday season, Grace Farms invites visitors to participate in its annual holiday events. At Gifting for Good on December 10, the public is invited to assemble backpacks filled with food, toiletries, books, toys, and other essential items for children in need. This program is run in partnership with Feeding America, Grace Farms Foods and Filling in the Blanks. Also in December, Songs of the Season will be performed by local musicians in the Sanctuary.
Ongoing Humanitarian Work
Led by Chief Accountability Officer Rod Khattabi, and with Former Nature Initiative Director Mark Fowler, Grace Farms Foundation is expanding its Justice Initiative work to combat human trafficking, gender-based violence, and environmental crime around the world and next month and is opening an office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Attorney Wisdom Mande will join Grace Farms to lead the office in Tanzania.
Design for Freedom by Grace Farms continues its work to eliminate forced labor in the building materials supply chain and has recently established partnerships with the U.S. Green Building Council. Through the Design for Freedom Working Group, Grace Farms has been educating the next generation of architects at more than a dozen architecture schools and conferences nationwide and working to promote creating ethical materials libraries and transparency platforms. Design for Freedom has also created partnerships to launch several pilot projects, including tracing core building materials and products such as steel, timber, HVAC, glass, copper, solar panels, textiles, and rubber as far upstream as possible to assess and mitigate forced labor risks. Sign up for its monthly digest on ethical building materials at designforfreedom.org.
Registration, Free Site Access, and Membership
Admission to Grace Farms is free to the public. Beginning in late August, you may schedule your visit online at gracefarms.org to guarantee admission.
To correspond with the reopening, Grace Farms is launching a new membership program. All members will receive expedited access to Grace Farms, early registration for select on-site and virtual programs, discounts on paid programs and retail items, access to select private events, an invitation to an annual members-only event, and an opportunity to share in something greater with a gift bundle from Grace Farms Foods. Organized in three tiers, memberships will be available for individuals, groups, and families and are available for purchase at gracefarms.org/membership.
Open Tuesday – Sunday
River Building volumes: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
East and West Barns, as well as the grounds around the River Building: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
On Sunday, the Barns, volumes and grounds close at 5:00 PM.