Healthier Living Through Art

Tufts students share food, art, and nutritional advice with members of Boston’s Chinatown community
A placemat by Camille Shimshak, A21, about the nutritional value of milk—as well as patterns of lactose intolerance around the world—topped with a cup of rice milk. A placemat by Lauren Diaz, A20, in the background.
A placemat by Camille Shimshak, A21, about the nutritional value of milk—as well as patterns of lactose intolerance around the world—topped with a cup of rice milk. A placemat by Lauren Diaz, A20, in the background. Photo: Jake Belcher
June 14, 2019

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In late April, students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts met with members of the Greater Boston Chinatown Golden Age Center to share food, nutrition information, and art they created in Silvia Bottinelli’s Food as Sculpture class.

The course, which was also offered in 2018, focused on curatorial, theoretical, and art historical contributions to food-based sculpture and performance. A collaboration across Tufts with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA), the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, and the Environmental Studies program in the School of Arts and Sciences, the course mirrored the artistic and scientific process—starting with a question, drilling down into a subject, then deciding how to share findings with the public.

For their final projects, students created placemats meant to communicate ideas about healthy nutrition and aging learned from HNRCA scientists. The class brought the placemats to the Chinatown event—along with foods such as smoked bluefish, goat milk, bulgur wheat and legumes—for a community lunch and wide-ranging conversation. Take a look at a few scenes from the afternoon.

Student Muriel Horvath, A21, describes her hand-drawn placemat about the life cycle of apples. Discussion ranged from the nutritional value of apple skins, to the fact that apples are often featured in food-based art and indicate freshness, multi-sensorial experience, and sense of community. Photo: Jake Belcher

Placemats by Kiara Reagan, A22, on substituting dates for sugary snacks, and Tess Yancey, A20, on good sources of heart-healthy Omega-3s, including in fish, walnuts, and kidney beans. Photo: Jake Belcher

Student Michaela Morse, A21, speaks with a participant over lunch. Photo: Jake Belcher

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