The Cupcake Project: The not-so-sweet truth about hunger in L.A.
It’s no secret that the best art is the art that engages the viewer. Elizabeth Tobias does just that, and feeds a few hundred total strangers in the process.
In a show called “Let them eat cupcakes,” one of LA’s most original performance artists measures the depth and prevalence of hunger in Los Angeles by offering the sweet , trendy treats to Angelenos – in exchange for their personal lists of “critical needs.” Part conceptual art — part social experiment –Tobias assesses 6 disparate neighborhoods, including Skid Row, Koreatown and Beverly Hills.
The messages on the handwritten index cards – filled out by struggling homeless as well as the Hollywood chic – are quite sobering. It’s up to the viewer to imagine where each card was completed, and who was behind the sentiment.
Tobias says while she was painfully aware of statistics on hunger (one in ten residents of LA County required food assistance last year*), the stats show “the face of American poverty is changing.” She discovered homelessness in Beverly Hills as well as downtown L.A.
Perhaps to be filed in the “only in LA” department, Tobias encountered resistance to the project in the 90210. Get this: While it took about 90 minutes to distribute her 85 homemade treats to residents of Skid Row, it wasn’t as easy across town. In Beverly Hills, distribution took over 4 hours. Why? Because, according to the artist, residents there were concerned the goods were not “gluten free.”
Now that’s art.
The cupcake project –addressing the scope of social inequity–is part of a larger show addressing scale—called “Measure for Measure,” curated by one of the world’s most influential physicists, Lisa Randall. The dramatic display of hundreds of “basic needs” cards now hang from brightly colored lanterns at Gallery 825 on North La Cienega–home of the historic L.A. Art Association celebrating its 85th birthday this year.
* Statistics provided by the LA Regional Food Bank