A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

The Picnic Table: Gather ’round, enjoy connecting — food, talk, community, fun, but first you must paint it

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune Editor

The Picnic Table is a ritual of summer. Imagine backyards and cookouts, a gathering of friends and family, easy conversation, great weather, some sunshine, relaxation, and connectedness.

The Picnic Table Project is one of the projects of Public Arts Network of NKY, a group that believes the arts are an essential part of vibrant, thriving communities.

Jill Morenz of the Catalytic Fund goes a step or two farther along — she wants to connect people through food and art and is overseeing a terrifically fun undertaking.

First you get a bunch of eager people together to buy picnic tables and then to paint them.

And that’s what’s been going on for the last couple of Saturdays. One more to go.

Of course, there’s a contest involved for those who care about that. With prizes.

But nobody at the ‘Painting Party’ — emphasis on party! — at the KW Mechanical warehouse in Latonia mentioned any prizes. There was too much fun going on.

The warehouse was filled to overflowing with sturdy 10-foot picnic tables, primed and ready. Participants chose a table, selected paints, bushes and all the accessories from the generous supplies available and went to work.

My First Team and I were more primed than the tables when we showed up for work wearing old clothes and thinking like Picassos. My team were eager young artists — granddaughters Anna, 11; Lily,9; and our neighborhood friend, Delaney, 11. We had a semi-plan but we were more than willing to free-wheel it. We were more than aware that others were taking the whole party a lot more seriously — and certainly had grander plans — but we figured they weren’t calling it a ‘party’ for no reason.

Almost finished. Or done.

Going right to work like Santa’s elves in the workshop, Anna started things off with a sun shining on our ol’ Kentucky home — and we were off to the races, literally and figuratively. I was relegated to the NKyTribune logo while the girls took charge of the important stuff. Depicting as many ‘Kentucky’ and ‘NKy’ icons they could think of — the Florence Y’all water tower, horses, rail fences, deer, goldenrods, boats and the river, bourbon, Derby hats and jockey colors, tractors, Cardinals, Lincoln, basketball and more.

It was long, messy, colorful, intensive — and fun — morning, full of hustle and bustle and great memories.

We took time to admire the truly beautiful picnic tables our neighbors were painting — elaborate, colorful and intricate designs definitely not made for mustard stains; whimsical, funny and creative designs definitely made for conversation between cornhole tournaments; serious, historical and sometimes precise, stenciled designs aimed at more studious discussion over farm-to-table meals and organic coffee. All were beautiful and special. Not one like any other one.

Something for everyone by lots of everyones, just like this great community we call ours.

My First Team and I had loads of fun, got as much paint on ourselves as we did on the table, but it was the table that mattered.

It will go — along with all the tables being painted over (now) three Saturdays to the Grand Finale — A grand party on the Purple People Bridge where all will be on display and there’ll be yet another party — a giant community picnic of course — on June 16. Hope to see you there, admiring all the picnic tables and enjoying the food and connections.

After that, our fun picnic table will find a home in our backyard, ready for many family and friend gatherings for some time in the future. Many others will enjoy that sweet fate; others will find homes in public places around NKY — and jump start untold conversations among friends and strangers.

Exactly what Jill Morenz had in mind.

Latonia — having fun but serious about the design.

Laura Menge and Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s table.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment