S.O.S. Free Seeds Library



Build Better Tables, Nashville, TN
June 1-August1, 2018

Collaboration with Courtney Adair Johnson and curated by Nicole Caruth
Sculpture design and fabricated by afoam. Installation by Marlos E'van. Commissioned by Metro Art

In 2017, Metro Public Art released a Public Art Community Investment Plan signaling a new direction for public art in Nashville, advancing the vision that every Nashvillian experiences a creative city. One recommendation from that plan was to create a temporary public art exhibition. Independent curator Nicole J. Caruth was selected to curate, Build a Longer Table, opening June 1, 2018.

Build Better Tables will include a series of public art interventions, installations, and programming that use food as a lens to examine the effects of disinvestment and gentrification on community nourishment. The exhibition will feature contributions from a variety of nationally-recognized artists, including Tattfoo Tan.

Tan’s project S.O.S Free Seed Library is an exercise in community food justice. Modeled on the Little Free Library system, the project provides residents in underserved neighborhoods access to free seeds for edible plants and flowering cover crops. The project encourages residents to take, plant, and share seeds, promoting food sovereignty and ecological diversity. Organized in collaboration with Nashville-based artist Courtney Adair Johnson, the S.O.S Free Seed Libraries will be installed at community gardens throughout Nashville. During the summer, Johnson and her collaborators will work with students from Opportunity NOW, a youth employment initiative for youth ages 14-18, to design seed packets and companion educational materials for their neighborhoods.

Brooklyn Heights Community Garden, 1831 Haynes St, Nashville, TN 37207
CE McGruder Community Garden, 2013 25th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
Woodycrest Community Garden, 2028 Hutton Dr, Nashville, TN 37210
Westwood Church, 2502 Albion Street, Nashville, TN 37208
Fall-Hamilton Elementary School, 510 Wedgewood Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203
Legacy Mission Village, 5123 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
Wright Middle School, 180 Mccall St, Nashville, TN 37211
Nashville Farmers Market, 900 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208

Courtney Adair Johnson is an artist and curator based in Nashville, TN. Her art practice works to create sustainable community through reuse awareness. She is interested in creating new ideas with art to generate awareness of our waste and consumption habits. Courtney has led reuse projects with Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Tennessee Craft and Springboard for the Arts (Fergus Falls). She is presently Gallery Director of Tennessee State University Art Department and Co-Builder of McGruder Social Practice Artist Residency (M-SPAR).

Seeds donated by


Fabricated by Michael Kellough and Victor R. Stanwick for Sanctum Lignan


Common interests: Mobility and transformation of public life

Curated by Sara Reisman
Rowan University Art Gallery, New Jersey, January 22 through March 16, 2013, Reception January 30, 2013, 5-7pm

Every S.O.S. Free Seeds Library are unique and hand crafted by local Staten Island's wood worker,
combing through shoreline for drift wood and pallets washed a shore during hurricane Sandy.

Even each library is different they all have a metal plaque stating their purpose.


Rowan University Art Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition Common Interests: mobility and transformation of public life, which examines how public spaces - from hardscapes to natural landscapes - inform our everyday lives. Common Interests is on view from January 22 through March 16, 2013 with a reception and gallery talk on Wednesday, January 30, 5 – 7 pm. Working with sculpture, interventions, social practice, drawing, performance, and video, the artists in the exhibition reflect on the limitations and possibilities of public space, proposing new ways of accessing, navigating, and improving our shared spaces and resources.

Guest curated by Sara Reisman the exhibition features work by Pierluigi Calignano, Sue Jeong Ka, Jonggeon Lee, Mary Mattingly, Diego Medina, Francesco Simeti, Tattfoo Tan, Lan Tuazon, and Alex Villar. Villar and Tuazon’s projects – video installation and sculpture, respectively – highlight the tensions created by the boundaries that limit and restrict access to public spaces. As if in response to these kinds of limitations – fences, curbs, and imposing facades – Pierluigi Calignano and Diego Medina’s drawings and sculptures suggest abstracted yet expansive architectural concepts that can be read as proposals for public art, architecture, and monuments. Working with memory of both public and domestic spaces, Jonggeon Lee’s artworks reposition fragments of historic architectural details and monuments to evoke the time, place, and textures of their original existence.

Undermining the implied stability of architecture, Francesco Simeti and Mary Mattingly have both produced works that are designed as mobile structures. Simeti’s sculptural installation entitled Rubble (2007) is based on Charles Eames’ House of Cards printed with close up images of ruins and debris. As a set, Rubble is a theoretical kit designed to rebuild from the remains of destruction. Mattingly’s recent projects The Waterpod (2009) and Flock House (2012) are both human-tested mobile living systems that serve as models for living with (and surviving) the threat of rising water levels and flooding.

Both Tattfoo Tan and Sue Jeong Ka offer up ways to improve our shared resources in the form of two very different ongoing library projects that sustain our health and intellect. Tan’s Free Seeds Library provides the public and gallery visitors with access to free seeds as a means of controlling the destiny of our food and promoting ecological diversity. Ka’s Refresh Library is an interventionist approach to book conservation in which she has developed a method for restoring broken and incomplete books in the public library.

Common Interests: mobility and transformation of public life is a small survey of artist projects that call into question how public space and public assets are managed, offering theoretical and practical ideas for reclaiming autonomy in public space.

Guest curator Sara Reisman has curated exhibitions and projects for numerous institutions, non-profits, and other art spaces including The Cooper Union School of Art, New York; Smack Mellon, New York; Queens Museum of Art, New York; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York; Philadelphia ICA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Banjaluka, Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria, among others. She was the 2011 critic-in-residence at Art Omi, an international visual artist residency in upstate New York. Since 2008, she is the Director of New York City's Percent for Art program that commissions permanent public artworks for newly constructed and renovated city-owned spaces, indoors and out.



"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something,
build a new model that makes the
existing model obsolete"

- Richard Buckminster Fuller



19th Annual International Roundtable
Feeding the World: Globalization, Food, and Agriculture in
the 21st Century, October 11–12, 2012, Macalester College,
1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105-1899

The theme of globalization, food, and agriculture links the global to the local in the very best of Macalester’s International Roundtable traditions, and spans the fine arts, social sciences, humanities, and sciences. The issue of how we sustainably feed the world in the coming decades is a conversation that will be sustained throughout the 2012–13 academic year and serve as a focal point for the American Studies Conference in the spring.

This year’s International Roundtable will take place on Thursday and Friday, October 11 and 12, 2012, and seeks to cultivate a civil and respectful exchange between those with contrasting views on how best to feed the world sustainably. The activities on Thursday will include keynote addresses by internationally recognized scholars Raj Patel, Ivette Perfecto, and Joshua Muldavin, followed by a constructive critique from two members of the agri-food business community, Steven Peterson and Jennifer Shaw. The day will end with a moderated roundtable discussion and a reception for making connections. 

On Thursday and Friday, artist Tattfoo Tan will work with the Macalester community to create mobile art gardens. His noon lecture on Friday will be preceded by a series of student- and community-led sessions on important sub-topics related to the global food system. Our invited speakers will meet with classes that afternoon. The International Roundtable will conclude on Friday afternoon with a discussion about the themes and action items that emerge from the two days.

On Saturday morning, the International Roundtable is partnering with the 2012 Macalester Family Fest to offer field trips to local farmers markets and other sites that address food production and distribution.



I heard you speak at Macalester last week. It was a great presentation! Thanks so much for taking to
time to come to campus and share your art and stories. Inspiring! The word here on campus is that the
roundtable was a great success. Thanks again for your role in it!
- Rachel Kamagne-Jones

I recently enjoyed listening and speaking with you at Macalester College where my daughter attends school.
Home in Indiana, I volunteer with a schoolwide green team that works with K-12 students throughout the district
working on sustainable living lesson plans. I love your SOS pledge and intend to incorporate it, but I am writing
about the specifics of the Nature Matching System. Take care and thanks for your work.
- Margot Gibson

I am an artist and a teacher in Vermont. I was visiting my daughter's college, Macalester, when I saw you give a talk. I really like so many of your projects. I am starting a free seed library here and designing a booth for seed packet design at a free arts festival at The Sharon Academy in Sharon Vermont. I hope it is okay that I am using so many of your ideas? They are very inspiring and I am so excited to be contributing to spreading the idea of saving seeds and exchanging with neighbors. Thank you for everything you are doing.
-Jennifer Brown



October 10, 2012 Macalester art students and guest artist Tattfoo Tan have launched a #FreeSeedLibrary initiative. Modeled on the Little Free Library system, students are making boxes for seeds to be put in public locations and traded freely. Students from Printmaking, Sculpture and Drawing classes designed, drew on and printed seed packets, and are building suitable containers with signage detailing the project. We are looking for community hosts for the seed libraries. Stop by the Art Building Sculpture Studio to see the progress of the project or sign up to host an artistic public seed give away system. Facebook page and Tumblr




#FreeSeedsLibrary at ETG Cafe, Bay Street, Staten Island

#FreeSeedsLibrary at Old Stone House, Brooklyn




"Nothing is more critical to human
survival than seed."

- Ben Hewitt from the book Making Supper Safe

S.O.S. Emergency Box

Seed saving to ensure the future of mankind.



S.O.S. Altoids Tin Survival Kit


S.O.S. Salt and Pepper Shaker
Who needs synthetic flavoring? Just plants some herbs to spice up your dish.


I present from Ecotone Community Garden in Houston’s 3rd Ward – Luffa. Seeds saving are very important to hold on to the heritage seeds and it also save money from buying new seeds. Usually, one will be blessed with seeds more the one can use, so it is the perfect vehicle for community outreach and literally spreading the seed of love.





The Mac Weekly