What is Mesa Fronteriza?

Mesa Fronteriza is a mobile kitchen that will travel around the U.S.-Mexico borderlands in May 2018. As it travels, the kitchen offers people who live in or move through the borderlands a space to share their stories of life near the border as they cook and dine together.

 

 
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How does it work?

Each dinner at Mesa Fronteriza invites a new group of people to gather at the kitchen, where together they decide on a menu. Mesa Fronteriza provides the group with ingredients to cook their chosen meal, and then welcomes participants to dine around a table where stories are shared.

Mesa Fronteriza plans each stop along its journey ahead of time to be able to work in close collaboration with local organizations, institutions and community leaders. This way, the kitchen can accommodate its activities to the particular needs and desires of its participants in each borderland community.

The central gathering space of Mesa Fronteriza is a round table. The table will be designed to carry out functions that a standard dining table can’t, such as cool people off with fan installations and light up the area around it. The table is an important part of the space that encourages interaction and provides participants with a comfortable dining experience.

Mesa Fronteriza also works to collect and share the stories and experiences of the people it interacts with. Those who participate in Mesa Fronteriza will have the option of video recording a message to then be shared with future participants, or with a public audience on Mesa Fronteriza’s online archive. We hope Mesa Fronteriza is an experience for participants to enjoy and learn from the act of sharing food and stories.

 
 

Who are we?

Mesa Fronteriza is run by three women with the invaluable collaboration of people in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. As three core organizers, we are eager to learn about the many perspectives on life in the borderlands, from people who inhabit the region. As we journey with Mesa Fronteriza we hope to explore what it means to collaborate with one another, as two artists and a social worker, and how our approaches to social engagement evolve based on the people and communities we meet along the way.

Isabel Ball

Isabel Ball was a 2016-17 Henry Luce Foundation Fellow in Thailand where she worked with the Migrant Assistance Program (MAP) Foundation. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 2015 with a major in Psychology and minors in Ethnic and Latin American Studies. Isabel has done extensive research on border enforcement, migration policies and trends, and networks of migrant support in North and Central America, at the Migration Policy Institute and as a research assistant to journalist and writer Todd Miller, author of Border Patrol Nation.

Roni Chelben

Roni Chelben is an Austin based artist who creates work as a direct conversation with the social realities around her. She is the founder and director of the Am I Invisible, a theatre ensemble made up of people who experience homelessness in Austin, TX, producing performances that express the realities of homelessness and the structural circumstances that affect it. Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, Roni discovered her passion for creating politically engaged art as a member of Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian peace movement, where she had the chance to practice Theatre for the Oppressed as a means to sparking dialogue as a protest between 2009-2011. Roni graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2016 with an MFA in Transmedia.

Gracelee Lawrence

Gracelee Lawrence spent this past year as a Visiting Artist at Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a 2016-17 Luce Scholars Fellowship. Gracelee graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2016 with a MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media. She is a Co-Founder of Pig & Pony Gallery and the Founder of the Virtual Studio Visit Network. In 2017 she recently had solo exhibitions in Thailand and has held solo exhibitions across the US. She is the recipient of the 2015 UMLAUF Prize, the 2014 Womack Fiber Arts Scholarship, 2013 Eyes Got It Prize, and the 2011-12 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant.