Artist opens kitchen to empower women

kitchen

SEBASTIAN - What do you get when you combine art, baking, and social activism? In Sebastian, the answer is A Kitchen Of Her Own, a new “culinary boutique”.

Shari Pierce is a professional artist with a passion for working to stop violence against women. Since 2007, she has had exhibitions all over the world regarding violence to women.

“One day it dawned on me that not everyone understands or has access to art, but food is the way to the heart. It crosses all gender, cultural, social and economic boundaries,” Ms. Pierce told Hometown News. “It is a basic necessity and a true pleasure that all humanity shares in common. So I had the idea to turn my art studio into a kitchen.”

A Kitchen Of Her Own, which Ms. Pierce calls AKOHO for short, will be a takeout bakery/coffee shop. Most important, it will be a gathering place and information resource devoted to Ms. Pierce’s passion for empowering women.

“AKOHO is a fully operational kitchen that will function as a meeting place, workshop and creative space to raise awareness and help eliminate violence against women and girls in our community. From my experience of working with victims of violence, women want to help other women and tell their stories but often they do not have the strength to do it alone or the space to do so. The kitchen will support itself by selling baked goods to the public, caterings and fundraisers.”

AKOHO will serve coffee, croissants, homemade pastries, quiche, fresh juices, waffles, pies and desserts, paninis, and salads. The menu will be seasonal and rotate with a few staples. Ms. Pierce will also offer catering and personal cooking/meal planning for private clients.

“My cooking and baking background is inspired by 15 years of living in Germany with a love for the Mediterranean kitchen.”

“It’s a place to raise awareness about violence against women. It’s a place for people to come and get resources or just be a voice in the community. And I will have fresh juices, pastries, coffee, and a lot of gourmet items I’ve come to like in Europe that are hard to find here.”

The name comes from a Virginia Wolfe quote: “What a woman needs is a room of her own to create.”

“So much of what happens in the home, both positive and negative, revolves around the kitchen and food, and how you interact with your family,” Ms. Pierce said. “I thought it was a perfect name for what I want to do, to empower and encourage. I want it to be both a non-threatening place for people to come for information, and also some great pastries and fresh food.”

Conceptually, she thought it would be perfect to have AKOHO right next to Paul’s Guns, whose owner Paul Trefzer she describes as incredibly supportive of her efforts.

“I was here visiting my mother, and I happened to meet Paul and we became good friends. Paul has been a great supporter of this project. Financially, it couldn’t have happened without his help. He is working hard to eliminate violence against women in the community so it’s actually a great fit.”

Another person who helped Ms. Pierce refine and improve her concept is Mindi Fetterman, founder of The Inner Truth Project in Port St. Lucie.

The Inner Truth Project is a nonprofit that offers services to survivors of sexual violence, allowing them to share their experiences in a safe environment. The Inner Truth Project is committed to eliminating the shame and secrecy of sexual abuse, violence or rape.

“When I first started the project, one organization recommended I contact Mindi Fetterman. I called Mindi and told her my idea. She said ‘the one thing we don’t have in our center that we always wanted to have a kitchen where we could all cook together, and sit down and have meals together.’ When she said that it was a big confirmation of my idea. I will be working hard to raise funds for her center, and hope that she and the women she works with will be coming here and we’ll have dinners together.”

At first, Ms. Pierce will do all the baking. Once she gets all the right resources and licenses in place, she hopes to be able to allow the community to use the kitchen.

“I figured I could support this space by serving the things that I like to make, gourmet cakes and pastries, and people could come here. Eventually I hope to use the space and the kitchen as a tool to reach out to the community. A lot of people like to do things like bake cookies for the troops, and I envision this as a place where they can come and do those things together.”

“I’m an artist with a cooking addiction, so for me, turning my studio into a kitchen is an art project itself, a performance installation. Over time, because of my connections in the art world, I will be bringing different artists from around the world that are doing social projects.”

AKOHO can be reached at 772-571-5880.

It is located at 9090 North US Highway 1 Wabasso/Sebastian next to Paul's Guns and Rock City Gardens.

For more information about Shari Pierce and her artwork, visit www.sharipierce.com.

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