at The Mouzon House
Dianne had two containers ready and waiting for me labeled, “Pretty Compost”. I was eager to see what textures and colors I had to work with. It had been a busy weekend at The Mouzon House, and the energetic employees thoughtfully collected the kitchen scraps for me. With all the chopping of fresh fruits and vegetables during the preparation of their award winning menu, there were plenty of hard nubby carrot ends, potato peels, and wilted fennel, to easily fill two buckets for Loving Earth Compost’s scheduled Monday pick-up. The Pedinottis say they “strive to bring together fresh ingredients from local farms while using practices that are good for you and good for earth”, and they were kind enough to set aside what remained for me to create and photograph as a Love Compost COMPOSiTion. Monday was a day off for them, so Dianne and David put the gas fireplace on to take the Spring chill out of the air and left me to it. Outside, a gentle rain filtered through a soft hazy light. The dining room is surrounded by large windows, so I had the benefit of all that natural glow. Inside there was a warmth and energy that was palpable. I remembered seeing the vintage photograph of Mia Mouzon downstairs, the week before. There was a certain radiance about her image, and I wanted to take another look. With photo in hand, I brought her back to the dining room with me, I thought that we could keep each other company. She was a teacher, a dancer, and the first American born woman of color to graduate from Skidmore College in 1947. It was her mother, Ardelle, who purchased the brick Victorian building, in 1911, years before women gained the right to vote, which is now home to the farm-to-table restaurant the Pedinottis own and operate. There was a natural flow to my work with Mia watching. I felt very comfortable, connected, grounded and present. The history here went deep, with a foundation built on an area rich in mineral springs and world famous waters, with their healing powers. Even so, throughout the years, the sustainability of this physical space was a struggle, and keeping it intact and in place did not come easy. It was only through the strong determination of some very special women, the strength of two families, generations apart yet equally rooted in the community of Saratoga Springs, that it was kept alive. These multiple layers of vision, artistry, hard work and purpose have been woven into a vibrant living tapestry where diners now experience, celebrate, and savor a unique brand of New Orleans cuisine. The common thread throughout, honors the essence of the past, infused with the vitality of the present. This feeling was ubiquitous. As I worked my COMPOSiTion, I saw Mia’s face reflecting back at me, one that I never knew, but moved me, still… transcending time, neither then nor now, but existing in a place in between, inspiring me in a moment. At that, I marvel.
Saratoga Arts made this program possible through the Community Arts Regrant Program, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.