In the wake of the 2020 US presidential election, art-world activist collective the Wide Awakes remains dedicated to its collaborative pursuit of greater justice, democracy, and welfare for all. To that end, members have launched the Wide Awakes Mobile Soup Kitchen, a food truck-cum-art project that serves free meals in some of New York City's most vulnerable communities.
Each Saturday this month, the truck is partnering with the Brooklyn Museum to serve different areas of the borough. It's also bringing art to the public with a vehicle covered in artworks by Azikiwe Mohammed, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Yto Barrada, Jose De Jesus Rodriguez, and Shepard Fairey. It has served up some 3,500 meals to date.
Running operations is the husband-and-wife team of Andria Hickey, senior director and curator at Pace Gallery, and chef Jason Murphy, who works as an art handler for Bonhams, but on the truck goes by "the Souper."
In the early pre-pandemic days of the Wide Awakes, Murphy functioned as the collective's caterer, feeding members during meetings at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But as the group resumed activities after the height of lockdown, the couple wanted to get more involved.
Andria Hickey and Jason Murphy. Photo courtesy of the Wide Awakes Mobile Soup Kitchen.
It was Hank Willis Thomas, a co-founder of the Wide Awakes, who first suggested the idea of a mobile soup kitchen. The idea was a natural fit for Murphy, who was used to feeding hundreds of people from his restaurant career, and had previously partnered with a food bank in Detroit.
"Within a few days, I was planning it," he told Artnet News.
The project's first event was for the Wide Awakes March in October, serving soup to participants as they congregated in Washington Square Park after marching down from Harlem. Soon, the couple was looking into ways to help address food insecurity on an ongoing basis.
"It was really starting to come to the forefront, how much damage the pandemic was doing economically," Murphy said. "And we were seeing it with our own eyes. We were living in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and on a Saturday you would walk past the food bank and there'd be a line of 500 people. It would stretch for blocks."