When I was a college student in Cleveland, one of the events my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed was the annual Chalk Festival held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The festival is an homage to the old Renaissance street art tradition, and participants pay a small fee for a square around the museum’s garden, a box of chalk, and a sponge for blending. Our first year we sat around doodling, then afterwards we walked around the garden checking out everyone else’s work. There was a scatter of seascapes, comic book drawings and personal messages. Then we came across an exact replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. In chalk.
After I got over the initial shame from my kindergarten-level artwork that, up until that point, I’d been pretty proud of, I briefly went through a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moment, and then I landed squarely in the shock-and-awe camp. It’s always inspiring to see someone take a simple event like a Chalk Festival and turn it into an opportunity to be truly creative. And that’s kind of where a visit to Canstruction takes me.
Canstruction is an annual competition that combines art and activism. A group of New York Architects and Engineers came up with the original idea of creating sculptures out of canned food, then donating the food at the end of an exhibition to local food shelters or hunger relief organizations. Unlike art that simply involves chalk and a sidewalk, the sculptures require some building skills. Registered chapters solicit teams to compete, and the teams are encouraged to include a mentor with a physics, architecture, design, engineering or construction background. So in addition to combining art and hunger relief, there’s also a marriage of art and science.
Canstruction has since grown to include international and youth teams. In 2015 over 600,000 cans of food were donated through the program. The competition encourages design and innovation while aiding hunger in communities from Hong Kong to Dallas. The displays are free, which also increases public awareness to the cause. At Brookfield Place, where Canstruction is on display, anyone can make a canned food donation at designated drop off boxes. All the canned food will be donated to City Harvest at the end of the competition.
Several awards will be handed out, including Jurors Favorite, Best Use of Labels, and Structural Ingenuity. But you can also vote so your favorite sculpture can snag the People’s Choice Award. (It’s guaranteed to be less harrowing than yesterday’s vote.)
Canstruction is on display in Brookfield Place through November 16.
230 Vesey St
Daily 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Pair it with:
A meal at PJ Clarke’s on the Hudson
PJ Clarke’s has been around longer than any of us have. It survived the Prohibition Era so that its likeness could appear in The Lost Weekend and Mad Men, and so that Buddy Holly could propose to his wife there. But PJ Clarke’s on the Hudson takes all that pedigree and gives it a new spin. You still have red checkered table cloths, but you now have the largest raw bar in the city, some large-screen TVs at the bar, and that view.
The space is expansive, so much so that it can feel like it goes on forever. (A trek to the bathroom is like a walk around the block, your Fitbit will be happy.) It’s a New York City rarity when everyone in your office fantasy football pool can lunch together. But most importantly, there’s a relaxed, old-school vibe here. No one is rushing you out the door so that they can fill your seat. And the food is nothing to sneeze at — you don’t become a staple without some prime eats. The classic Clarke Burger is still one of the best in the city, but now they’ve added a new Wagyu Prime Burger which we’ll definitely be back for. We’ll probably sit in the same spot, and check in with our favorite server. It’s just that kind of place.
250 Vesey St
(located in Brookfield Place)
Mon – Fri 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm