Founding Farmers co-owner Dan Simons explained why 47,000 family farmers have invested in restaurants in the Washington D.C. area and King of Prussia. It’s about changing up the way profits are distributed in the supply chain.
“Their vision was: ‘How do we get a greater share of the food dollar?’,” he said.
Another partnership that makes Founding Farmers stand out is one involving regional artists. Five artists that have filled the dining spaces, and the downstairs cafe and creamery, with engrossing, custom-made creations were on hand at a ticketed “Art Reveal” event held at the restaurant on Feb. 6.
Garnet Valley artist Patrick Cabry’s multi-layered installation, which includes a trickling water feature, offers a simulated aerial view of Norristown and King of Prussia in mosaic tile. The mosaic map highlights the area’s relation to water. A cluster of red tile, he said, represents an area of water north of Valley Forge that had become contaminated. What looks like stone is actually hand-troweled cement sculpted to look like rock. The moss growing on it is real.
Darla Jackson of Philadelphia is responsible for the golden cows, and the Baby Goat Ladder that visually ties together the First Bake Cafe & Creamery on the ground floor to the upstairs Founding Farmers restaurant space. Jackson shared that creating sculptural forms of four-legged animals is more difficult than you think, especially when using them to convey human emotion. “I teach figure sculpting, but people don’t always tend to relate to it right away,” she said.
Jackson also contributed some golden, polyurethane resin rabbits — many wearing 18th century coats or hats — striking either stoic, proud or on-the-lookout poses in the “General’s Parlor” brunch dining room/private party space. These three-dimensional bunnies compliment the room’s whimsical “Continental Bunnies” murals by Washington D.C. artist Constance Stuven that were inspired by the Valley Forge Encampment, and feature Pennsylvania’s official state tree, the eastern hemlock.
Stuven revealed that she used house paint to bring these scenes to life. “It’s cheaper (getting quantities of paint for a mural) at Home Depot than Michael’s. It’s super-durable. And it’s a restaurant, so things get splattered (on the walls),” she said.
“I like the lower bunny panels; they’re a lot of fun,” Jackson said of Stuven’s scenes on the lower half of the walls that depict Revolutionary soldier rabbits poring over a map, sharing a drink in a cellar, playing cards in their barracks, etc.
Vienna, Va. artist Nathan Loda’s oil and acrylic panel portraits of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are loaded with subtle nuances. Using Franklin’s likeness on the $100 bill as a starting point, Loda put spectacles on him, as a nod to Franklin’s invention of the bifocals. He holds a turkey feather quill pen, a reference to Franklin’s belief that the turkey was a better symbol for the USA better than the bald eagle. On his desk is correspondence with Jefferson and colonial Philadelphia botanist John Bartram. Schuylkill grape vines in the background spill out over the portrait frame to the surrounding wall. Separate panels depicting white dent corn and Scotch cabbage represent crops that Franklin believed would make America a world power.
The stained glass mushroom and crystal landscape that adorns the Founding Farmers welcome desk is by Mohawk, N.J. resident Neile Cooper. If you look closely, you’ll see crystals from Phoenixville embedded in the glass. A swarm of iridescent stained glass moths in one dining area almost makes you forget about the night sky mural painted on the ceiling.
“If we don’t have creativity, what do we have?,” Simons said to the attendees at the Art Reveal.
Located in the King of Prussia Town Center at 255 Main St., Upper Merion, you can learn more at www.wearefoundingfarmers.com, (484) 808-4008, www.facebook.com/foundingfarmerskop and @foundingfarmkop on Twitter and Instagram.