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Nikki Patin, right, and her assistant Candyce Tuggle, left, at Tuesday’s ArtHouse event ‘Kitchen Poet, Baking with Nikki Patin’

'ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen' is living up to its expectations

Contributed By:The 411 News

Where food, art, and culture meet

Meeting up in downtown Gary is living up to the ‘build it and they will come’ expectation that city leaders hoped for when a baseball stadium and a 15,000 sq. ft. restaurant were constructed in the early 2000s during Mayor Scott King’s administration.

Tuesday evening at the restaurant that has gone through several iterations from the original Dusties Southern Style Banquet to the now ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, moms with kids in tow learned how to make scones and in a meeting room, the discussion was on recognizing the food sector as a space for more than just providers and consumers.

Across the street at the U.S. Steel Yard, it was Taco Tuesday and RailCats fans streamed into the baseball stadium, while some tailgated in the parking lots until the first pitch.

‘Meet-Up Gary’ was the NWI Food Council’s invitation that brought its followers to ArtHouse. Their platform – food is the bridge to build community connections. Last year in Gary, council members came to the Emerson neighborhood as volunteers to help construct hoop houses and garden beds at Gary's Faith Farms, a community gardens project next door to Progressive Community Church and an initiative of the FAITH CDC.

Elias Crim, a council board member said “… our idea is to be a kind of clearinghouse” to connect local growers to nearby communities, promote healthy foods, encourage young farmers, energize economic activity, and influence food policy. As an example of creating economic activity, Crim pointed to the success of the craft beer industry.

In April, Gary formed its own food council with help from Purdue University’s Cooperative Extension Services, a program based in the university’s agriculture department. “Urban farming is the big hot topic down in West Lafayette,” said Jan Reed, director of extension services in Lake County. “They are willing to be up here in northwest Indiana to get farmers started.”

Purdue Extension, along with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), Valparaiso University, and the Food Bank of NWI were early supporters of the NWI Food Council, helping it to launch in December 2015.

Lagging behind the baseball stadium in capturing an audience, ArtHouse opened in November 2016 on the premise that more than a restaurant was needed to bring people to downtown Gary.

Tuesday evening’s other event, ‘Kitchen Poet, Baking with Nikki Patin’ in the ArtHouse kitchen was more than how to make a scone. Poetry and bits of experiences with her bands (Patin opened for Jill Scott at Chicago’s Metro) shared the stage with her recipes.

Similar techniques are used in baking and poetry, Patin explained: Both require the right mix of ingredients (words), heat (inspiration) and time (rhyme/rhythm).

Terrica Carson and her son Christian were in the audience and talked about substitutions they would try at home. Ambre Cain, a friend of Carson, said she attends cooking demonstrations. “I came because this one is different and it’s also free.” Cain also brought her children, an infant and a toddler.

For ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, its mix of food, art, and culture is the bridge to connect people to downtown Gary. For a schedule of weekly events, visit

Story Posted:07/21/2017

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