Making the Best of It: Dandelion
Public art engagements and potluck dinners, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Core Collaborators: Valentine Cadieux, Sarah Libertus, Aaron Marx, Sarah Petersen, Marina Zurkow
Commissioned by Northern and presented as part of Northern Spark, Climate Chaos | Climate Rising, 2016-2017, with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Knight Foundation and additional support from the University of Minnesota School of Architecture BDA program


Making the Best of It is the umbrella concept for a series of regional site-specific pop-up food shacks, installations, carts, tea houses, delivery drones, and designed community dinners that feature edible climate-change enabled, and often not normally eaten, indicator species as part of the menu. These events are designed to engage the public in tastings and conversation about the risks of climate chaos, our business-as-usual food system, and short-term food innovations at our disposal.
For our project in Minnesota, home to Big Ag, Making the Best of It: Dandelion (MTBoI:D) teamed with a corps of committed community artists, farmers, biologists and activists to designate the dandelion as its northern U.S. poster child. Abundant, nutritious, beloved by children, symbolic of seed dispersal, and disliked by lawn-owners, this invasive plant offers a model of eating and thinking about human and interspecies well-being on a variety of levels. It is highly adaptable, does well in disturbed ecosystems, and is of significant use to a variety of species, from bees (an early pollinator) to our gut microbiome (an excellent digestive aid). In addition, the species’ response to challenging environmental conditions makes it a relevant guide for exploring the complexity of climate instability.
Over the course of 16 months in Minneapolis, geographer and social practice artist Valentine Cadieux and Marina Zurkow, with a group of collaborators and participants, explored what it might mean to “make the best of it" (“it” being climate change), using dandelions to think through eating differently, nimbly, with sadness, resilience and even joy. Our project was bookended by two major public art festivals—Northern Spark 2016 and 2017. In between these festivals Cadieux and Zurkow hosted a series of potluck dinners, meet-ups and educational initiatives at Hamline College and the University of Minnesota, as well as in public parks, homes, and community kitchens.

Northern Spark 2016
MtBoI:D created a refuge-like outdoor installation of triangular buildings, each of which addressed human/dandelion relations at a different scale, from the human microbiome, to the local macrobiome, to the headier paradigm shift of considering dandelions as nimble exemplars of thriving in a wide variety of conditions. MtBoI:D offered free servings of dandelion, in food, beverage, and medicinal forms, accompanied by a system of information and provocations.



Potlucks 2016-17
Over the course of the year Cadieux led a series of experimental potlucks in Minnesota that focused on the changing inner and outer climate—weather and food system shifts, but also sorrow and joy. Zurkow joined her for the last pair of meals, hosted at The Good Acre. These two dinners brought 30 people together to make and eat a feast consisting partly of lawns and dandelions, and also to playtest some mechanics we would employ at Northern Spark 2017. Namely, using the construct of a funeral wake meal and the crafting of eulogies for humans written from the vantage points of non-human agents.


Northern Spark 2017
"Join us in a ritual festivity that invites you to become more dandelion. From trans-species oration to cow eulogies to intimate ocean tributes, this is the party of Making the Best of It, a communal service compressed into the space of a toast—to how all of us are making the best of it, now and in the future."
MtBoI:D created a church-like refuge in which all were invited to take on a non-human persona and offer a brief remembrance of the human species.