Starting Tuesday, shoppers can view reimagined wooden apple crates — designed by more than15 local artists — on display within various businesses throughout the Front Range. The attention-grabbing vessels will be used to collect nonperishable food items as part of Creative Catalyzer’s Dare to Care food drive — an initiative started to combat the food insecurity brought on by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to our society as well as taxed the social net to the max,” said Nick Beni, a leader of Creative Catalyzers who came up with the concept. “With schools being closed and/or on a hybrid schedule, access to food through the free lunch program was disrupted.”
Food requests include canned tuna, canned vegetables, nut butters, soups, oatmeal, pasta, rice and more.
“We plan on donating all of the food to the Community Food Share,” Beni said. “They have a great built-in network/infrastructure, offering families nutritious foods whether it be canned or dry goods, fresh produce, plus amazing dairy goods. It honestly feels like you are at a grocery store when you tour the Community Food Share.”
Students of families who qualify for the free lunch also qualify for access to food at the Community Food Share.
“In a former life, I ran a day shelter in Boulder,” said Joy Redstone, a Creative Catalyzers leader who designed two crates for the upcoming food drive and was executive director of Bridge House from 2003-2012. “I saw firsthand the impact of hunger in Boulder. I know from those days that we had an enormous amount of hungry kids in Boulder County and I can only imagine that the devastating impact of COVID economically has made it worse.”
One of Redstone’s crates will be located at the dive shop Ocean First, at 3015 Bluff St. in North Boulder, and in honor of the scuba store she is keeping with the nautical theme.
“It has shells and sea glass and Jacques Cousteau,” Redstone said. “I am also doing one for Twisted Pine Brewery, which will have twisted tree roots and little glasses of beer around the rim. Basically, I really appreciate the fact that these businesses are participating. Small businesses are having a hard time, too, and the fact that they are willing to be generous to others is amazing. So I wanted to offer them crates that reflect and honor their passions.”
Other locations include R Gallery at 2027 Broadway in Boulder and The Old Oak Coffeehouse at 136 2nd Ave. in Niwot. The team is currently looking for four more open-to-the-public businesses to serve as drop-off locations in Longmont, Louisville or Lafayette.
“Businesses are receptive to the idea and excited to help out,” Beni said. “It really is amazing to see even after how many months of this pandemic that people still have it in them and do care. The Creative Catalyzers leaders have been strategic with our business contacts to ensure optimal participation.”
Creative Catalyzers is the same nonprofit responsible for the Boulder Bunny Rabbit Art Challenge that, in April, provided folks with opportunities to check out art outside of Boulder buildings when galleries and centers remained closed due to the pandemic.
While leaders considered doing other projects that would provide entertainment, they ultimately decided on one that would make a greater impact.
“Families in need who receive two meals per day for their kids at public school are in a lot of financial hardship,” said Angie Eng, founder and director of Creative Catalyzers and one of the participating artists, “if you have three kids and all of a sudden you have to cover 42 more meals per week, plus the roughly 20-30% increase in groceries since June. It was obvious that, although it would be fun to do some outdoor concerts or an art scavenger hiking hunt, we need to cover basic urgent needs since we are in an emergency situation.”
Crates — now one-of-a-kind canvases decked out with everything from tinsel to peacock feathers — were upcycled from King Soopers. Remnant paint was donated from the Hazardous Materials Management Facility of Boulder County and Art Parts Creative Reuse Center offered 25% discounts to participating artists.
“We didn’t have a particular theme for the crates and then I proposed the idea of doing world leaders and famous artists, scientists, etc.,” Eng said. “This was right when Ruth Ginsberg passed away and the Frida Kahlo exhibit was going up. I was debating upon Frida, Bruce Lee or Ruth.”
While some creatives opted to paint a detailed life-like cat and a tribute to Van Gogh, Eng decided to pay homage to musician Bootsy Collins — a member of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic and uncle to rapper Snoop Dogg.
“I had put a picture of Bootsy on our last newsletter about voting and I thought his image would be great to attract attention on a food crate to remind people to bring their food and donate,” Eng said. “Bootsy is fun and enthusiastic with a great smile. Music brings people together. I actually know little about his career and he isn’t necessarily my favorite funk musician. Prince is. But, Bootsy is still going, smiling, playing, making people happy.”
The collection of crates will remain up through Dec. 30. Those who wish to donate money can do so through the initiative’s GoFundMe — $20 is equivalent to six school lunches while $100 can feed lunch to a classroom of underserved children.
An updated list of drop-off locations, where donors can find the unique crates, can be found on Creative Catalyzer’s website, creativecatalyzers.org.
“Having enough to eat seems like the most basic of needs and fundamental to every aspect of a child’s health,” Redstone said. “I love the power of art to engage people. I am hoping that these decorated crates draw the eye. I hope that the dedication of the many artists who are making them moves people to donate. I hope that the artists’ love and care for hungry children inspires many people to stop and think about how hard and powerless it is to be a hungry kid.”