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‘Richmond Potluck’ benefits Puerto Rico hurricane victims

VCU School of the Arts will host the community event at the Anderson on Friday, Oct. 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Steven Casanova’s exhibit, "The Richmond Cookbook," at the Anderson.

A Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts alumnus has quickly turned his existing exhibition at the Anderson into a benefit for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month.

VCUarts will host Steven Casanova’s “Richmond Potluck” on Friday, Oct. 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Anderson, 907 1/2 W. Franklin St. Casanova is one of six recent alumni featured in the “Reach Out and Touch” exhibition, on view at the Anderson through Oct. 8.

Casanova’s work, “The Richmond Cookbook,” is a submission-based citywide cookbook showing the diversity in culture and background through Richmond, while contrasting living situations and food access throughout the city.

The potluck event will take place Friday from 5-9 p.m.
The potluck event will take place Friday from 5-9 p.m.

“I want to show what everyone eats through the question, ‘What recipe do you want to share with your community?’” Casanova said. “The show currently at the Anderson is both what I have received so far, and a place where people can submit more.”

Casanova had always planned a community potluck — “the physical embodiment of this sharing, with people eating and sharing across the city,” he said — as part of the exhibition. But in the wake of Hurricane Maria, he realized community is formed by more than just physical proximity. He has friends and family on the island that he still is unable to contact.

“When I hear from my uncles and grandparents, they say they haven’t eaten since yesterday,” he said. “And when I ask friends where they are getting water they say ‘rain.’ The most devastating pill to swallow for myself is I will not be able to do anything for the people that are dying as we speak.”

Unwilling to remain helpless, Casanova wanted to collect supplies and funds for those who have lost almost everything in Maria’s wake. It was relatively easy to convert the potluck he had already been planning into an event for Puerto Rico.

“The Anderson was happy to host it, both as an art event and later as a relief effort,” Casanova said. “They have been very supportive.”

All are welcome at the event, Casanova said, and he encourages attendees to bringing food, art or emergency supplies.

If you don't have money, bring art. If you don't make art, bring food.

“There are many people who want to help but don't know how or don't feel like they are able to,” he said. “If you don't have money, bring art. If you don't make art, bring food. It will all encourage donations and end up benefiting people who really need it.”

The money, specifically, will go to farmers that Casanova has been working with in Puerto Rico, he said. Because some people may not know where to give or don’t feel comfortable giving to faceless organizations, he decided to step in to provide a tangible outlet.

“These farmers farm very sustainably and work on spreading that message to the whole island, and sustainability will be the only way to make sure a crisis like this never happens again,” Casanova said. “This [event] is also for everyone else that wants to help but feels helpless, whether they have direct ties to Puerto Rico or not.”

The Anderson will continue accepting emergency supplies until next week.

Steven Casanova’s exhibit,
Steven Casanova’s exhibit, "The Richmond Cookbook," at the Anderson.

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