By Nyesha Stone
Every weekend, beginning in April through early August, Alyx Christensen and Rudy Medina hosted a mid-day meal with the Milwaukee community. They wanted to create a communal space for others to gather while also serving them healthy food. Using that concept, they created Open Kitchen.
“It was all researched food,” said Medina. “And, all vegetarian.”
Medina was born in what is considered the ‘Midwest of Mexico” Michoacán. However, he grew up in Chicago, which is where he met Christensen. Medina said his birthplace, just like Wisconsin, is surrounded by fresh produce.
Each weekend, their Open Kitchen menu only consisted of three different items. It changed each weekend, and everything cost $6. According to Christensen, the $6 was only a suggested donation, but most people either paid or traded with something else such as produce.
As the co-directors of Open Kitchen, Christensen and Medina decided that their space wouldn’t just be for food, but also a space for the creatives. While the kitchen was open, they hosted the artists for a residency every season. So far they’ve hosted three seasons. Each residency is for two weeks ad is free of charge.
Everything was in one space: the kitchen, the gathering area and the artists. They also had a small outdoor space, but inside only 6-8 people could enjoy Open Kitchen at a time.
“[It was] small enough that you couldn’t avoid talking,” said Christensen.
According to Medina, they updated the space with their own money. The kitchen was remolded, everything was gutted and they started from scratch. They also bought the food and charged no rent to the artists—each artist stayed for two weeks. Eventually, they made enough food and money to support the artists during their weekend events.
Medina said they learned skills—building, running a business, etc.—out of necessity.
But, why do all of this?
“We’ve always been interested in building a community,” said Christensen.
Christensen and Medina said they wanted to start a critical conversation and what better place to start than with food?
“I want to create an environment for us and other people to come into,” said Medina.
But, now that the physical space of Open Kitchen is no longer available, the two have been selling salsa at the Riverwest Garden Market on Locust St. They currently sell jars of salsa which they consider an extension of the kitchen.
Open Kitchen is only one of their projects these two have been working on. They currently co-own a film front—a storefront that plays free films—in Chicago.
“We all have the means to build a society and we forget that,” said Medina.
Through their different projects, they want the community to start challenging the norm. Ask why things are the way they are, especially when it comes to the media. The media affects everyone’s views on the world, but it’s up to us to change and counter the negativity the media puts out, said Medina.
And, Christensen and Medina are challenging the norm one plate and jar of salsa at a time.