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Chew on this: What Ethan Murrow’s ‘Project Atrium’ drawing says about hunger

Chew on this: What Ethan Murrow’s ‘Project Atrium’ drawing says about hunger

September 12, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Ethan Murrow piled heaps of food on a table, more than any one person could eat, and proceeded to gorge on the feast before him. He performed his gluttony in front of a camera, shooting images that would become the source material for his Project Atrium wall drawing Plethora.

Murrow said he wants the image to evoke questions about the role of privilege in our access to food.

Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora Members Preview Portrait a
Ethan Murrow made a donation to Feeding Northeast Florida as part of his work on Plethora. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

That's exactly what it did for Luke Layow, president and CEO at Feeding Northeast Florida, a nonprofit regional food distribution center. Layow joined Feeding Northeast Florida in January 2016 after roles at The First Tee, Prison Fellowship, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and the Carolina  Panthers.

We asked Layow what Murrow's drawing means to him and the work he does with Feeding Northeast Florida.

How did you first hear about Ethan Murrow's Project Atrium wall drawing Plethora?

I was having lunch at NOLA MOCA when it was pointed out to me. We then recalled receiving a donation which referenced the artwork. Upon further research, we realized the donation was from the artist, Ethan Murrow, himself.

When you first saw Plethora, how did it affect you?

The size of the drawing is what first hit me. I read the summary of the piece, so I knew it was hand-drawn using Sharpies. When you know that first and then see it, it's hard to believe how big it is and then how much detail it contains. The entire concept goes that way; there's much more to it than it first appears.

Luke Layow Feeding Northeast Florida Visits Project Atrium Ethan Murrow b
Luke Layow of Feeding Northeast Florida visits Ethan Murrow's Project Atrium wall drawing Plethora at MOCA Jacksonville. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.

What ideas behind the drawing resonate with you?

The gluttony of food consumption AND food waste in America. The idea that we are “hanging ourselves” because of this is deeply impactful. It's apparently an “unsuccessful hanging” at that. Chew on that for a while. Pun intended.

How did you become involved with Feeding Northeast Florida?

I was looking for a local opportunity to lead a team. My family has lived here for five years, but I wasn't focused on Jacksonville in my prior position. Not only did I find a role that enables team leadership, but I found a cause and mission that is as elementary to physical human need as there is.

How does Feeding Northeast Florida work?

We rescue food from retailers, farms, and manufacturers. It is sorted by thousands of volunteers and then distributed to those in need through more than 180 community partners, as well as our own channels directly. We are the backbone of the fight against hunger in our region where there are more than 280,000 people that do not know where their next meal may come from.

Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora Members Preview c
Visitors view Ethan Murrow's Project Atrium wall drawing Plethora during the members' preview at MOCA Jacksonville. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.
Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora Fish d
A detail of Ethan Murrow's Plethora. Image courtesy of Doug Eng.
Ethan Murrow Project Atrium Plethora Hand e
A detail of Ethan Murrow's Plethora. Image courtesy of Doug Eng.

How can people help Feeding Northeast Florida?

We are always grateful for “word of mouth” marketing and volunteers. However, we like to say, “It takes more than food to feed people.” We run a logistics business, and there are costs to moving food from point A to point B. In the month of September, which is Hunger Action Month, we are asking people to donate whatever they believe their average cost of one meal is. If they'd be willing to donate that amount every month throughout the year, we'd be able to move more food to those in need.

What do you hope visitors take away from Plethora?

I hope the drawing drives attention to the cause of hunger. It is a very real challenge to our country with widespread ripple effects. Hunger impacts crime, job retention, worker productivity, and education. The face of hunger is also not what most Americans believe it to be. More than half of the people who receive support from us are working families. Of the more than 280,000 people who are food insecure in our service area, 80,000 are children under the age of 18. Not to overdo it, but chew on that.

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