Black culture exhibit, food on display at the Tacoma Art Museum
Every Thursday, during The Kinsey Collection’s run at the Tacoma Art Museum, explore African American history and the intersection with food through bites of local barbecue, macaroons, fried catfish and coffee on the fire. Of wood.
For the first time, the TAM Cafe has partnered with local businesses – in this case, black-owned restaurants and bakeries – to manage food and drink once a week while the Kinsey African collection airs. American Art & History.
“When the Kinsey exhibit was first mentioned,” said Chef Tony Lang, who manages the cafe and catering events, “it is only natural as a chef for me to think about how whose food I can associate with that. “
The exhibit features more than 150 artifacts collected by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey over five decades, each representing the achievements and contributions of black people in the United States from 1595 to today. Their son Khalil Kinsey manages the collection and hosted the Tacoma Show, which opened on July 31.
In May, Lang, who grew up in Steilacoom, came up with the idea of simultaneously showcasing local black-owned food and beverage businesses, drawing a line from the gallery to the kitchen.
“Everyone jumped on board really quickly,” he recently told The News Tribune.
Guest chefs included Quincy and Whitni Henry of Campfire Coffee Co., whose downtown café opened in August 2020; Warnessa Victorian of Lizzie Lou’s Comfort Food, a food truck and catering operation with a restaurant inside the Fife Harley Davidson; Brenda Miller of the Cajun and Creole food truck Velvet’s Big Easy; and Bobby Shorts of Hamhock Jones Soul Shack, a Lakewood-based truck known for live music in the Shell parking lot.
Karina Blasco of Only Oatmeal Cookies, now with a display at the Waterfront Market in Point Ruston, will be visiting on September 23.
Pastry chef Aliyah Davis’ Dowd’s BBQ and Black Magic Sweets returned for their second Thursday last week.
“It was a huge opportunity,” Martin Dowd told the News Tribune on September 16 as he served from his truck parked outside the museum on Pacific Avenue. “It was something that hadn’t been done, revolutionary if you will. It’s something to be proud of, and you want to be a part of something like that.
Originally from North Carolina, he started his barbecue business in 2003, growing from a humble location at a Chevron gas station in Fife to a full-fledged caterer who cooks frequently for corporate events and weddings. With a decorated food truck and another on the way, Dowd will soon be opening a brick and mortar store in Fern Hill.
His father was a pit master, he said, but his cousin and self-proclaimed foster family in the Pacific Northwest taught him how to barbecue. After joining the Navy in 1990, he was stationed at Bremerton and served in the Gulf War. Her story, in a way, illustrates the connections that the Kinsey collection experience at TAM aims to make – through shared art and food, history and culture.
“I’m always looking forward to representing,” said Dowd, who will be back in October and November.
Lang, meanwhile, is busy discussing the next edition of TAM Cafe Takeover.
The collaboration was not only a first for the museum, but also for the Kinseys, he said, but its success has proven that this type of partnership works – and impacts more than the exhibition.
“We’re an anchor downtown, and that kind of help brings everyone together,” Lang said.
He’s already invited other local restaurants to see the Kinsey takeover in action, in anticipation of collaborating on future exhibitions.
In addition to the cafe takeover, TAM and The Kinsey Collection have teamed up with ETC Tacoma’s Umi Wagoner on exclusive apparel, on sale now in the gift shop and online.
TAM CAFE TAKING CONTROL – THE KINSEY COLLECTION
▪ Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org
▪ Details: Black-owned restaurants appear every Thursday; times vary, check the calendar of events and social media for updates
▪ Free entry to the museum on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., no ticket required to visit the café