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5 Things with Kelsey Dufresne, co-founder of Esse quam videri at NC State University

On using art, gardening, and food for justice.
Published onAug 31, 2022
5 Things with Kelsey Dufresne, co-founder of Esse quam videri at NC State University

1 | NCMA + Fault Lines

North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is an expansive art museum that encompasses two large buildings, one amphitheater, and an outstandingly expansive outdoor space — all filled with art and people. This past summer, I was able to visit NCMA in Raleigh, North Carolina — and, more specifically, I was able to visit and engage with their Fault Lines: Art and the Environment exhibition, which I still think about.

Two abstract art pieces using ink and collaged trash elements.
Placard describing the exhibit: Kristen Stolle American, born 1967. Speculative Animals 2018 Collage, graphite powder, ink, and glitter on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Tracy Morgan Gallery, Ashville, NC. The dreamlike images in Speculative Animals illustrate an imaginary species that has developed in response to ecological changes. "To survive extreme habitat loss, declining biodiversity, and limited resources of food and water, hybrid species evolve into stronger and more resilient animals," says Stolle of these fantastic creatures. In 2021 alone twenty-three animal and plant species, including the ivory-billed woodpecker once found in coastal North Carolina, were declared extinct, a tangible result of climate change and habitat destruction.

Above are two pieces from Kirsten Stolle’s Speculative Animals. Are these the best pictures? Absolutely not. But they are the only ones I took while exploring the exhibit, which was made up of incredibly beautiful, incredibly poignant, and incredibly terrifying pieces of art — ranging from photographs to films to installations composed of years’ worth of trash. All of them conveyed the threats of environmental destruction, climate change, deforestation, wildlife loss, environmental injustice, and more.

The exhibit was as enticing as it was off-putting. In intentionally showcasing the brutality of our actions on the planet, which is simultaneously home to beautiful spaces, species, and ecosystems, the exhibit reminds us of how dire of a position our planet and all of its inhabitants are in.

And while the exhibit challenged us to consider the consequences of our rapid consumerism, it was encompassed by the pressing reality of said consumerism — in the form of a gift shop filled with crocheted sea creatures, posters, fridge magnets, mugs, trinkets, and books. Walking out of the exhibit into the gift shop and then out into the outdoor space of the museum, one was reminded of the incessant pressure to purchase, consume, and replace -- and yet, as the exhibit aimed to address, we must resist in whatever ways, to whatever degrees, we can.

For further reading, below is an article outlining the exhibit:

“Fault Lines: Art and the Environment” by Stephanie Barnhill Neal

2 | Focaccia

Lately, my favorite thing to bake has been focaccia. Personally, I find focaccia to be a filling, indulgent, and delightfully savory bread (and one that is easier to prep and bake than sourdough). For those that have never made or tried it before: focaccia is a bread that is baked with an abundance of salt and doused in olive oil, giving it a deliciously crispy and salty crust.

A homemade focaccia bread, browned, crispy, topped with super salty flakes, herbs, and onions.

My go-to recipe lately for focaccia has been Claire Saffitz’s Soft & Crispy Focaccia. Try it yourself, and use more olive oil than you think you really need.

Claire Saffitz Makes Soft & Crispy Focaccia | Dessert Person

3 | Wonderpuff

Along with food, I also think about the power food has to work as a vehicle to build, bridge, and support communities. Lately, I can think of no better example of this than a local cotton candy shop based in Research Triangle Park’s Boxyard — Wonderpuff. Founded by a wife and husband duo, Wonderpuff sells cotton candy and other delicious, sugary, vegan, and organic treats. Many are topped with sprinkles and pop rocks, and while they can be purchased online, they can also be purchased directly from their storefront, which doubles as a disco space. It is all very amazing.

WonderPuff logo: Black woman with pink hair making a peace sign with her hand.

And in addition to their delicious and delightful sweets, their business emphasizes community, self-love, magic, justice, and empowerment -- as illuminated throughout their Instagram (@wonderpuff). So while crafting sweets, Wonderpuff is using their space and platform to demand betterment and equity.

NC State University will be hosting Jackie Morin, owner of Wonderpuff, to lead a talk on her experiences with Wonderpuff and cotton candy — as well as a workshop on how to make cotton candy. Both of which will be live streamed as well.

4 | University of Texas at El Paso’s Makerspace

Through the UNT MindSpark podcast, I learned about UTEP’s Makerspace and their work in supporting college-level and grade-school level learning through creation, making, and play. As Makerspaces are increasingly and formally present in various schools, libraries, and community-centers, UTEP’s Makerspace team reminds us that Makerspaces have been around much longer than folks realize, often seen in vocational programs and classes like home economics.

Throughout their podcast interview, which occurs over the course of two different episodes, the UTEP Makerspace team emphasizes the importance of their space, and the folks that help run the space, offer invaluable time, expertise, resources, and support to help individuals begin sparking their creativity. Their discussion, importantly, was less about the specific tools and technologies found in their space — and was more about how they foster confidence and community among the multidisciplinary learners that they engage and work with.

Moreover, they emphasize that the tools and machines are a vehicle through which creation occurs. Machines are not the end all be all.


5 | Guerilla Gardening

Flowers, trees, plants, and bees are all things that I think about often -- and when I was introduced to the concept of guerilla gardening and flower seed bombs, I was smitten.

A paper plate with meat-ball looking brown mud balls full of seeds.

While they look like small meatballs, flower seed bombs are small bundles of organic materials and seeds that one can easily toss or throw into a bare patch of land — or anywhere that needs more flowers or vegetation.

They are also incredibly fun to make. It is a messy (messy) process, but it is also fun to play with mud in such a manner that helps to then support our ecosystem later on. So, between the joy of making them and that of tossing them around — it is a very ludic process that prioritizes supporting pollinators and the environment through small-scale means.

When I make flower seed bombs, I follow Alex Mitchell’s recipe, as shared with Gardenista.

As Mitchell expresses in the above article: “Seed bombs are best, and the most fun, when thrown into neglected roundabouts, central reservations, flower beds, and planters.”

Make flower seed bombs. Help the planet.

— Kelsey Dufrense

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