The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Pennichuck Middle School art teachers Belinda Bodnar and Laura Dionne with their students working on their Comeback Kitchen Table project. Courtesy photo.

Learn more

Nu Muse Festival: Saturday, May 6; the event is a day-long music festival, but visitors will also see the roll out of the Nashua Street pianos and the Comeback Kitchen Table public art installation; for more information visit
Participating organizations and schools: Nashua High School South, Pennichuck Middle School, Nashua Alternative High School Program at Brentwood, Academy of Science and Design, 2nd Nature Academy, Nashua Area Artists Association, Picker Collaborative Artists, Nashua Public Library, Gate City Charter School of the Arts, Nashua Transit Authority, and The Revolving Museum Teen Arts Group

Come eat with us
ARTventures launches “Comeback Kitchen Table”

By Kelly Sennott

 Last Tuesday morning, Pennichuck Middle School eighth-graders gathered in the cafeteria, not to eat, but to glaze tiny four-inch tiles, which will decorate a gazebo and artfully painted table in downtown Nashua as part of a school-wide project.

“There are like 700 kids doing this — every student in the whole school,” said Belinda Bodnar, just before the glazing session, as she pulled out pages of sketches and plans of what the outdoor structures will look like when completed. 
Bodnar is heading the effort with fellow Pennichuck art teacher Laura Dionne, and on this day their classrooms were filled with evidence of the kids’ hard work. There was a table with half-painted placemat settings, and on the door hung student chair designs. Their project name: “Come eat with us.”
“It’s really about raising awareness about the importance of quality time at the kitchen table with family and friends. … We all have such busy lives that sometimes it’s hard to sit down and eat together. We’re always on the go,” Bodnar said. “It’s also about getting people in the greater community buying in and just recognizing the importance of this. We’re noticing through studies that for students who don’t have that family time, those regular dinners, it’s affecting their schoolwork. It’s affecting how they progress further in their lives.”
Theirs is one of 10 artfully decorated tables part of the Gate City’s latest public art project, “ARTventures: Comeback Kitchen Table,” conceptualized by Jerry Beck, founder of The Revolving Museum and consultant for City Arts Nashua. More than 1,000 Nashua youth, artists and community members are participating, and all tables are slated to be completed and installed in various downtown locations by the May 6 Nu Muse Festival.
The idea stemmed from Beck’s own experience as a husband, dad and stepdad, trying to get his family to sit and eat together. Growing up, the kitchen table was the center for all his family gatherings. Only now, struggling to find this time together, has he realized the significance of this quintessential furniture piece. 
“I started wondering if this was a cultural phenomenon in America. Everyone’s complaining about not being able to have authentic conversations with one another, and this is an opportunity to converse without technology,” he said. “I did a lot of research, and sure enough, there are a lot of people out there talking about how their kitchen table is becoming obsolete.”
Beck had no trouble finding tables made with high-quality wood for the project. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Craigslist, the side of the road — they were everywhere. 
“They were all over the place. My kitchen table was $1,000; you could probably get the same table now for free,” Beck said.
It’s Beck’s second year working with ARTventures in Nashua; past public art projects involved kinetic downtown sculptures and a totem pole decorated with poems by Elm Street Middle School students. He reached out to new schools, teachers and artists this time around.
Rachel Gualco, a graphic artist at the Nashua Public Library, said the students from Gate City Charter School for the Arts were all over this endeavor. Their table is made from 500 donated library books with a cooking theme. She hoped to have everything done before April vacation week, in time for the grand opening of the library’s new wing. 
The Pennichuck art teachers said they saw exuberant enthusiasm among their students as well. 
“We could have chosen to do this project with just our art classes, but we’ve decided it’s so important to raise awareness in the entire school,” Bodnar said. 
Pennichuck Middle School’s table will be located by the clock towers, where it will stand for three months before being transported back to the school to become a permanent outdoor classroom space. Eighth-graders said during interviews that morning that they thought it was cool to be working with so many people on this project. The message hit home for Julia Simon’s family.
“At dinner, you should be talking. You should be spending time with your family,” Simon said. “I told my mom about it, and she thought it was cool because we don’t always make it to the table while we’re eating. It kind of brought us back.”

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