Farming as art

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Most restaurants get their produce from delivery trucks that back up to their kitchen doors. A few procure veggies from a 1985 Mercedes sedan packed to the windows with lettuce. That would be one of Cynthia Mulcahy’s delivery methods. The Oak Cliff resident owns Mulcahy Farms with her husband, Robert Hamilton, and they sell organic produce and plants to neighborhood restaurants, including Bolsa and Smoke. They have a family farm near Glenrose, where they grow greens, beets, beans and other veggies. And their backyard gardens on Haines Avenue produce figs, sunflowers and succulents. Mulcahy, a curator and art dealer, is one of a few local growers in Oak Cliff, and last month, she and Hamilton brought farming as art to our neighborhood. Seventeen Hundred Seeds is an art installation on West Davis at Van Buren. Mulcahy, Hamilton and crew tilled the field and planted 1,760 sunflower seeds in rows. The art of it is in bringing the community together, sparking ideas and conversations. Some of the neighborhood kids, for example, had never seen a tractor at work before, Mulcahy says. She likens work on the installation — weeding, watering, tilling — to theater, and people are always curious about it. They ask questions, or they tell stories about their grandpa’s farm. “I had a gallery for 14 years,” she says. “People do not walk into your gallery and ask you these questions. Ever. If you put something in the community like that, people are more likely to get it.” Mulcahy and Oak Cliff neighbor Leila Grothe are the ones who received a Warhol grant to put on a free public square dance at the Trinity River Audubon Center last year. That was community building as art, and it shares concepts with Seventeen Hundred Seeds. “This is going to create a space where the community can get together,” she says. “Before, it was just an empty space.” Aside from that, it turns out that sunflowers can cleanse soil. They’re often planted near the sites of nuclear disasters, such as Chernobyl. Seventeen Hundred Seeds is on the site of a former plating company, and after that closed, the Environmental Protection Agency had to clean up the site. Sunflower season runs through November. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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