The beauty of art can be found just about anywhere we look.
Art is a tangible commodity normally found in museums, galleries, restaurants, public spaces and even on buildings. It can be viewed from a distance or up close and personal. There is also art that is found outside of mainstream thinking—an idea whose time has come. Art lies in the mind like beauty itself, in the eye of the beholder.
During the pandemic, the big outing for many may have been a weekly trip to the grocery store. It became our “date go-to” as everything else was closed down due to restrictions. I felt a true sense of euphoria when gazing upon rows and rows of fresh vegetables at places like Karns, Radish & Rye Food Hub and local farm stands such as Veg Out. Colorfully wild in their assortment, ever changing with the seasons, vegetables hold the unique ability to lift spirits, provide inspiration in the kitchen and can even produce smiles.
So, it is really with a debt of gratitude to the farmers, growers, merchants and, most of all, to the master gardener for helping so many during this difficult time. Vegetables, as a contained community, sometimes get the short end of appreciation, at least historically from me. Truth be told, I’m a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Except when I am in the grocery store, then vegetables are my mood enhancer. As a whole, the compendium of colors buoyantly lifts me to the clouds and, to see them arranged on the shelves artfully, gives my life a deeper meaning. The presentation proffered either clicks or it doesn’t. But, when it does, it is like gazing upon a masterpiece of art—a prize painting, a sensuous sculpture, a well-turned bowl, a thing of beauty. And like John Keats eloquently wrote in “Endymion,” “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
Vegetables and their artistic attributes are an affair of the heart, with an ever-growing appreciation of the bounty that gives us so much in return. They incorporate color in every shade and tone, and their consumption is good for what ails us.
It all started earlier this year when we ventured to Karns Quality Foods on Jonestown Road. It was there that I became smitten. Entering the vegetable aisle, my heart skipped a “beet.” My eyes traveled from artichokes to asparagus, broccoli to Brussels spouts, cabbages to carrots, corn to celery, parsnips to potatoes, radishes to rutabagas, salad greens to spinach, tomatoes to turnips, and, I am sure, a grocery list of others I have overlooked.
The artful presentation of freshly scrubbed vegetables lent a pristine purity, looking like they belonged as a still life masterpiece in a museum rather than a grocery store. Chris Nelson, the produce manager and a 12-year veteran at Karns, shared that the layout “stems” from a floor plan devised by him and associates Daniel Jacobs, assistant produce manager, and Christine Comley, head of floral display, in its final rendering. The Karns produce team in its entirety is comprised of 18 associates, each contributing their share to the overall display.
Radish & Rye’s owners, Dusty and Julia James, put their stamp of approval on everything within its four walls of freshness at its1308 N. 3rd St. outpost, offering heirloom vegetables of every variety, artisinal breads and farm-to-table meats and cheeses. On the day we visited, store associates were busy merchandising the shop, and we were greeted with open arms and infectious smiles by the shopkeepers. They both shared with us that the presentation is a team effort, with all lending a hand in completing the visual array at Radish & Rye—“All for one and one for all,” much like the musketeers of Dumas novels. We swash-buckled our way through a wide selection of vegetables throughout the store as well as a battalion of veggies we held captive in our bags. (Pictured: A display at Radish & Rye)
Veg Out, the new kid on the block at the Broad Street Market, with its owner and front woman, Melissa Barrick whose mission is to provide locally grown vegetables, herbs and plants, goes one step farther by selling plants to grow in your own garden to patrons in the brick building. Boasting a dozen varieties of tomatoes, eight types of peppers, squash and seasonal fruits, she will have pumpkins, Christmas trees and lavender wreaths to join her regular repertoire as seasons come to pass. Veg Out is part of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and even anticipates being part of the SNAP by this winter. (Pictured: The Veg Out stand at the Broad Street Market)
In 1967, the Beach Boys penned a paean to “Vegetables” which simply stated, “I love you most of all, my favorite vegetable.” This off-the-wall, musically diverse song featured none other than Paul McCartney chomping celery throughout the two minutes of musical mayhem. As for me, my romance with romaine will continue as I stroll the aisles of vegetables far and wide. For now “lettuce” keep this secret between us.
Images by Jana MacGinnes
3rd in the Burg, Friday, July 16 (Before, During and After)
Celebrate early before the evening unfolds at Midstate Distillery, opening at 4 p.m. with a flight of spirits to share with friends before going out on the town. From its 1817 N. Cameron St. location, it’s minutes away from the evening’s main attractions. Just halfway through the month finds July’s 3rd in the Burg featuring two events that vie for top billing on the marquee. It’s a flip of the coin as to which one is the hot ticket ending this workweek, with distinct audiences for art appreciation.
It very well may be an overflow crowd at the Art Association of Harrisburg due to its longstanding reputation and the 93rd Annual Juried Art Exhibition. However, there is plenty of space to mingle and be seen. Almost 17 months to the day, this Friday celebrates the first art exhibit reception in the garden at the AAH, located at 21 North Front St. The event unfolds at the dot of 5 p.m. for this traditional blockbuster that features some of the best art from around the country. CEO Carrie Wissler-Thomas and curator Rachel O’Connor have pulled out all the stops for this meet-and-greet celebration. Robert Eichinger of Cumberland Financial Group will be the reception host for the evening. Artist-musician Jonathan Frazier will bring music in its many forms to punctuate the great art within the gallery till 8 p.m. Artists worldwide were eligible to digitally enter the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 2.
An equal amount of fanfare and cause for celebration marks the return and reopening of Gallery@2nd for the first time in ages, starting this Friday night and for every 3rd in the Burg thereafter. A huge Harrisburg welcome back to Ted and Linda Walke, gallery owners. The Gallery@2nd features on-site artists, Sean Arce, Keegan Beinhower, Chad Whitaker and owner Ted. Gallery@2nd offers a unique perspective on art, taking its outside-the-mainstream thinking from its freewheeling proprietor. The presentation at the gallery is representative of what art unrestrained resembles, appealing to likeminded individuals and artists. The quartet comprises artists who break from the rank-and-file consortium and march to their own anthem of art abstractedness. The avant-garde ensemble of patrons, whose appreciation starts at the door and ends with the last call for art at evening’s close, may be queuing up in line as the ink is drying on this blog. It will be open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m. Drop by and say “hi” to this eclectic group of artists and owners at 608 N. 2nd St.
After, venture out to (I already gave you a clue up above) the Vegetable Hunter at 614 N. 2nd St., open until 9 p.m. to take your favorite date for more art on the walls. A cozy table awaits with a menu that offers a vegan’s dream with a small-batch craft brewery, offering plant-based ingredients for its inspired beers. With small plates, bowls and tacos, it is a cool vibe “vistro,” offering vegetables galore even in dessert form. How can you go wrong? If you are traveling to or from the west shore, check out their newest location at 46 W. High St. in the heart of downtown Carlisle, which closes at 9 p.m. The Vegetable Hunters owners, John and Kristin Messner-Baker, have set the table with a summer banquet of healthy vegan and kosher fare to eat, drink and enjoy. The restaurant officially opened on July 1 to the public.
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