A Series of Free Meals and Talks Celebrates Food Along the 7 Line

7 Common is a globalized food-art project designed to get local people talking—an international exercise in artistic and culinary diplomacy. Photo credit: Flickr/MTAPhotos.

The New York subway system. Lots of food. Two things that usually don’t go well together. That notion might be worth suspending, at least for the duration of 7 Common, a series of free events taking place this November at Flux Factory, Queens.

The brainchild of art collective Case Studios, visitors will be offered the opportunity to embark on multi-sensory explorations of cultural and culinary diversity along the MTA’s 7 subway line. The ambition: for perspectives to be broadened and palates awakened.

Stretching from Main Street in Flushing, Queens, to the Hudson Yards, Manhattan, each event has been designed to unite a wide cross-section of local residents. Politicians, artists, urban farmers, commuters and beyond will connect in conversation, meals and exhibitions through the shared medium of food.

To inform the flavor (literally) of a shared meal experience hosted on November 16, Case Studios collected responses at each stop along the 7 train. Asking questions like: “How would you describe your neighborhood using taste?” and “What does your food heritage mean to you?” Events aren’t just a work of art but also self-guided social science tours of the city.  

Case Studios, the group behind 7 Common, is a collective of four artists from the U.S. and Europe. ​Josefin Vargö, Sam Perry, Will Owen and Louise Hobson created the idea for 7 Common after a night discussing the diverse communities they’d encountered along New York City’s 7 subway line.

Vargö is a Stockholm-based food and design curator with an international background who’s also half of Swedish gastronomic design studio Aydin & Vargö. Owen​ is an interdisciplinary artist and curator working with design, media, sound and food who hails from western North Carolina. Perry​ is an independent curator and writer who works with an international community of emerging artists and collectives. Finally Hobson​ is an independent art curator and producer based in Cardiff, Wales. Flux Factory provides the New York City backdrop and base.

So why did Case Studios embark on this culinary journey? It’s about finding something we all share in common: “In the shifting landscape of an increasingly globalized world with increasingly xenophobic governing bodies, an emphasis on commonalities is key.” Their work is designed to engage the city’s community in a continued dialogue on the subject with food as a common, communal language.

While events take place in New York, they’re perhaps ironically supported by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee and Wales Arts International. 7 Common is a globalized food-art project designed to get local people talking—an international exercise in artistic and culinary diplomacy. Hopefully the results will be just as palatable.

Unfortunately five years into my own journey in this city, I’ve yet to take a trip along the 7 line. It’s simply never been necessary, until now. If only every commute or local exhibition were as altruistic a proposition, I might revise my feelings toward my monthly Metrocard. Until then, I’d best be taking a trip so I can savor these events.  

Ruth Temianka

Ruth Temianka is a writer, editor and entrepreneur.