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Artist Plants Veggies in Furniture

By Mathew Katz | May 22, 2012 9:10am
Spevack said that most New Yorkers can fit the greens in and under their furniture.
Spevack said that most New Yorkers can fit the greens in and under their furniture.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — Need a salad? Just look under the sofa.

In a move that could be taking urban farming too far, a Brooklyn-based artist has built tiny "microfarms" into ordinary furniture and put them on display at a Chelsea art gallery.

"Eight Extraordinary Greens," artist Jenna Spevack's new exhibit at the appropriately named Mixed Greens Gallery, shows off eight pieces growing arugula, kale, cress, chard and other leafy salad ingredients.

"The show is about value — the value of food, community and creative effort," Spevack said. "The idea is that fresh food could be available to everyone in the urban environment."

Spevack's vision of farmers' fields under futons and in closets makes use of simple tools easily found at hardware stores. Her planters are made of steamer trays and hemp rope that wicks water from pools below. Add a small lamp and you've got a recipe for all kinds of veggies, including beets or tomatoes.

The idea to build the tiny fields came after Spevack tried to grow food in her cramped Brooklyn apartment by turning her bookshelf into a mini-greenhouse. It evolved into a full-on art exhibit, with greens under chairs, kitchen tables and in cabinets.

"Growing food in the city is not easy to do if you don't have the space," she said.

"It allows you to do it without too much effort — for busy New Yorkers,"

The current project was funded by donations from furniture, lighting and seed companies, along with $3,446 raised on Kickstarter.

Spevack admitted that her greens-for-everyone idea may be a ways off, but she hopes to find a way to make the tiny planters affordable. She said she estimates the cost for a small one — a size that could fit under a bedstand — would cost roughly $100.

The furniture farms on display are up for auction at the gallery at 531 W. 26th St., allowing them to potentially sell for less than a typical installation, and allowing customers to decide how they value sustainable agriculture.

"It's intended to be different than other exhibitions, which can be over the top," she said.

"This is more accessible — I'm asking 'what do you think it's worth?'"

Once the exhibit closes on June 3, Spevack plans to put on workshops and lectures about her indoor-growing concept, and has been contacted by potential investors interested in turning her art project into a line of eco-friendly designer furniture.

"All of us could be growing," she said. "Under our couch, in our closets. Greens for everyone."