Potluck: Chicago, a community building project, seeks to increase local connectivity using food sharing and community art-making to spark new conversations. Potluck: Chicago was launched in Fall 2011 through a series of shared meals, skill workshops, and discussions about strategies for re-imagining the social life of a city. The UK interdisciplinary arts organization, motiroti, partnered with various local institutions, including Columbia College Chicago, Dorchester Projects and En Las Tablas Performing Arts Center to gather a diverse body of participants interested in expanding their understanding of arts activism.

Participants in Potluck engage in the initial stages of creative placemaking: imagining, evaluating, and becoming increasingly aware of the power of dynamic sociability. Deferring result and finalization, participants take risks and push their own levels of comfort. Potluck: Chicago looks to the social inequities that mark our neighborhoods and relationships with one another in order to spark actions on how we might harness the full potential of our city’s good.

Potluck is specifically interested in the importance of comfort foods and their ability to bring people together. We believe it creates comfortable spaces and conversations among strangers. Through the empathic act of bringing a taste of your favorite comfort food from your culture to a table of strangers, a potluck fosters a connection among diverse cultures and generations over the common need for nourishment. These moments of mutual generosity, when the story of one dish is exchanged for another, often reveals additional commonalities and dependencies among a seemingly incompatible group of people.


The Potluck Principles are that, as well as working within participatory arts best practice guidelines, a local Potluck circle commits itself to working:

  • accessibly – using food sharing as a means to develop the widest and most diverse public engagement, and to foreground diverse cultural riches of the locality; to enable creative work to extend from places where people of all kinds can be engaged and appreciative.
  • responsively – ‘from the community end’ – actively listening and being responsive to expressed briefs, ideas and concerns of communities and participants – putting the interests of people before the creative intentions of circle members, and working on creative platform(s) accordingly.
  • openly – to increase and diversify circle membership; working transparently; taking work into other sectors where possible to increase connections and opportunities.
  • professionally – being respectful of all organizations and people engaged – taking responsibility and recognizing support; being clear in dealing around ownership and crediting of ideas and activities.
  • persistently – seeking ongoing engagement with those with whom a circle might connect.
  • generously – sharing skills and insight widely and freely through documentation; by offering peer to peer support.
  • sustainably – being resource-efficient – putting value on making visible, and bringing into a local network, existing as well as new activity that supports the aims of the project.

Potluck groups are invited to self-organize as Potluck:[city-name] (or to operate under another group name as they so choose); and to liaise with motiroti, and other Potluck groups as they form, to build new collaborations, share intelligence and collaborate in other ways that further the overall project.


The Potluck: developing a ‘glocal network’ of neighborhood artists

  • A potluck is a meal to which everyone brings a dish.
  • The Potluck project seeks to increase local connectivity and participation, using food sharing and community art-making, to spark new conversations and actions about how we might harness the full potential of our ‘world cities’.
  • Potluck groups are artists making work in, with and for their local neighborhoods in emerging ‘world cities’. They use food sharing and common Potluck principles to achieve positive social change.