Practical propaganda: Amy Franceschini reinvents the Victory Garden

Ever since stumbling upon an exhibition by Amy Franceschini in San Francisco in 2007, I've wanted to talk with her about her artistic practice and, specifically, her mission to revive San Francisco's famed Victory Gardens program, which were used during the World Wars to grow food for citizens. Guest-blogging at Art:21 provided the perfect opportunity. The founder of Futurefarmers, Franceschini set out to create everything she needed to attract would-be gardeners and help them get started: seed kits, promotional propaganda posters, uniforms, and both symbolic and functional sculptures, hybrids like the "pogoshovel" and "bikebarrow" (above), which she calls "playful sculptural invitations."

An excerpt from Art:21:

Wanting to welcome the broadest range of people, she struggled with what role aesthetics should play in the project. “I tried to convince myself that aesthetics could get in the way of a potent message,” she remembers. “Some people maybe would only go to the surface and not go any further. And I think in the last couple of years I’ve tried to figure out a balance. If you look at Futurefarmers’ work, the aesthetic is always very strong, and that’s been a really positive thing. But I think it can also be a negative thing where certain people only see that surface layer…Right now I’m very much like: aesthetics are really important. That’s what people respond to, it lures people in, it lures in people who maybe wouldn’t have looked at it in the first place, and if they only get to that surface level, fine. At least they got there.”

She sees objects like the pogoshovel as propaganda in sculptural form. She wanted to create a “wonderful and fantastical image —that if someone saw a bike and a wheelbarrow connected, it would make them do a double-take,” she says. “Just to provoke people through a playful image was interesting to me.” (Some of these pieces are functional, as well. When a family is selected to be part of the program, the project delivers their starter materials, fittingly, via pedal-power in a VG Trike/Wagon.)

Read it all.

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