Celebrating the ever-experimental culture of the Herberger Institute

Herberger Institute Day was born from Dean Steven Tepper’s desire to bring together the students, faculty and staff of the institute’s five schools and art museum for a day of workshops and activities. The idea was such a hit that it has become an annual tradition. The third annual Herberger Institute Day drew more than a thousand registrations for workshops like “Happy trees and fluffy clouds: A Bob Ross paint-a-long,” “Eco-printing on fabric” and “We need more cowbell!” And once again the culminating activity of the day was a creatively curated interactive meal for hundreds along ASU’s Tempe Campus Forest Mall. This year, graduate students Dienae Hunter and Sofia Dotta “curated” the meal, known as #CreaTable; together they planned the meal itself as well as the activities and entertainment during the meal. Hunter, who is a graduate student in the Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership program in Herberger Institute, shares their Herberger Institute Day experience below.

Dienae Hunter, holding ladder, and Sofia Dotta set up for #CreaTable.

On Thursday, Oct. 24, I woke up, put on a T-shirt, tucked it into my jeans and cuffed its sleeves. It was blue with “Creative Minds Know No Limits” in yellow text on it. It’s an unusual start to my day. I don’t wear T-shirts often, and I don’t have anything in my closet as brightly colored as this year’s Herberger Institute Day shirt, but that day was the day that I, along with so many other people, had been planning and working towards for months.

I applied for the position of co-artistic director for the #CreaTable Meal on the Mall last spring. A call for applications hit my inbox, I saw the words “food,” “community” and “experience” and thought I like all those things, the application is only two questions, let me apply for this and see what happens. I got one of the two positions, along with a friend/classmate of mine, Sofia, and together we began dreaming up what this meal would entail.

We started with research. What other artists are producing large-scale, curated, community meals? We found inspiration close to home in Phoenix’s 2013 “Feast on the Street,” produced by the ASU Art Museum, Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation and artists Clare Patey and Matthew Moore, and just a few hours southeast of us in artist JR’s 2017 “PicNic at the Border” in Tecate, a city on the Mexico-California border. Chef Salimatu Amabebe, who co-curates “Black Feast” with designer Annika Hansteen-Izora, says about their work, “This meal is created as a celebration, a dance, and an offering. This meal is created for you.” This became a guiding statement for Sofia and me in the early stages of developing #CreaTable. How do we design an experience that celebrates the talents within the Herberger Institute, that dances the stories of our artist and designer community, that offers up opportunities to make, eat and connect with others?

When we were deciding on the overall feel for the meal, we agreed that this celebration of artists and designers needed to be fantastic, whimsical and surprising. We asked ourselves, How do we encourage a sense of play among people meeting for the first time at the meal?

How do we ignite meaningful conversations between meal-goers who may not know anything about their table-mates? We thought about how to delight participants of the meal with the activities we implemented. Oversized paper-folding and balloons that revealed icebreaker questions on them came to mind. A surprise dance performance that slowly builds along the edges of the tables. Suddenly hearing the brass, strings and gritos of ASU’s mariachi ensemble, led by Carlos Castaneda. In everything we did, Sofia and I were thinking about how to push our ideas past anything that’s been done before and into a realm that reflects the ever-experimental culture of the Herberger Institute.

Photo of dancers performing at Herberger Institute Day.
The meal included a surprise dance performance paired with music from ASU’s mariachi ensemble.

During the meal, professor of design Milagros Zingoni asked me, “Would you do this all again?” I thought about the last five months and the hundreds of emails, thousands of texts and hours and hours and hours spent brainstorming, designing, coordinating, dropping some of the dozens of spinning plates needed to make this event happen and having to find ways to put the pieces back together. The late dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch said about her creative process, “It is no pleasure to do a piece at all. I never want to do one again. Each time it is a torture. Why am I doing it? But no sooner has a premiere passed than I am already making new plans.”

So Milagros, the answer to your question is this: Being a part of producing #CreaTable was an enormous challenge that sometimes kept me up at night worrying about things like balloon deliveries and whether or not it was ridiculous to pair mariachi music with modern dance. But we did it, against all odds, or should we say against all winds? And I would do it again. I would just hope for a less windy day.

– Dienae Hunter, Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership student

Celebrating the ever-experimental culture of the Herberger Institute was originally published in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts