Monday, June 22, 2009

Pietopia= pies, people, community, connections

What flavor pie would describe your life and why?

The idea of Pietopia manifested from my deep love and interest in community, connection, communication, design, and the senses. Everybody eats, so how can this be translated as the common denominator and a way for people to communicate and connect through? I began searching out new ways to apply design-thinking and problem solving to my life passions and Pietopia was the brainchild.

I chose pies because of their timeless appeal to the seasons, cross generations, and the local culture. I am also interested in exploring the ancient correlation between taste and feeling. The goal of Pietopia is to incite communication, connection, and communing as the interweaving entities within the fabric of our daily lives; as well as how the sense of taste and smell and the feelings/memories they can evoke spearhead this process and open doors for understanding. Pietopia seeks to channel our connection with food as a way to communicate, ultimately discovering what the city’s quality of life truly is.

The winning contestants receive a unique, silk-screened print that an artist/designer has reinterpreted into a visual poster. These are on display along with explanations as to why/how they taste like the winners lives with the free tastings of each of the pies. By involving artists/designers from the community, it is another way to weave together creative forces, design, and different ways to communicate bye showcasing/making them accessible to the community at large.

What is really neat is this trend of using pie is catching on. Free Pie, a group started by several graphic designers on the east coast, hand out free pie in different cities. Their message is simple: sometimes life is bad, free pie isn’t. They go on to say that simple gestures, like giving away free pie, can unite communities and spread joy, which I couldn’t agree more with. But what if there was more to the pie? What if the pie was actually trying to tell you something and you could take away from the experience of free pie more than just a tasty morsel? These are precisely the intentions of Pietopia, bringing a way for people to communicate about things they may not have had the platform to talk about or connect through otherwise.

In a recent article in Fast Company, Pie Lab was featured. Pie Lab is a new space in Greensboro, Alabama created by an intensive design program for designers who want to do good, called Project M. Each year, a small group of creatives are selected every year by founder and graphic designer John Bielenberg to travel to locations ranging from Maine to Baltimore to Costa Rica, identify a problem, and solve it, sometimes in a matter of days. Project M has it’s headquarters (known as Project M Lab) down in Alabama and a space where short, intensive courses are taught to designers from around the world. This incubator is where Pie Lab was spawned and materialized. Brian Jones, Pie Lab’s creator and active member of Free Pie, says “Free Pie was designed to gather people together with pie in an effort to promote conversations with neighbors and strangers, and to bring humanity back into downtown areas.” Jones goes on to explain, "pie is something that everyone enjoys, so we've used that knowledge to create a place that everyone wants to visit," he says. "PieLab provides a neutral environment in a traditionally segregated town where people from every race and class are welcome to sit together and talk candidly about whatever is on their mind." (picture courtesy of Fast Company).

Pie really is a neutral ground for people to let down their guard a little, enjoy a treat, and open up or relax. Eating has this effect on people. The action of it gives people something to do, something to segue with into other realms or topics that can seem strange or uncomfortable when confronted face to face, like meeting new people, or discussion in general. It’s no wonder people and designers are starting to hone in on the powerful effects food, eating, and the senses have over our everyday lives. They are so intricately involved in everything we do, we forget that we use them at all.

Pietopia Pie Contest
August 20th, 2009, Thursday 330-7pm
Eastbank Farmers Market, Portland OR

All entries must be emailed to pietopiacontest at gmail dot com by July 15th for consideration. Please see contest details for more info! I look forward to hearing about the taste of your life!

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