Eating, drinking and being merry

Making art with the human tradition of going out to eat and drink

Spectators gathered to view, listen and give their input on Dr. Rachel Foulk’s “Talk with an Art Historian.”

Foulk is a professor in the humanities department and a doctor of art history at Ferris. Her presentation, titled “Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Bars and Parties in Art,” was inspired by Jason Swearingen’s “Last Call: Schuberg’s Bar and Grill” exhibit. The purpose of the talk was to help accentuate humanity’s longstanding tradition of wanting to eat, drink and be merry.

Foulk spoke about how the high rate of COVID-19 transmissions within restaurants affected how people ate out during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of us felt lost, not being able to go to our favorite bar, or pub or restaurant to gather,” Foulk said. “I think we’re still contemplating and thinking about… the impact of that and how important our friends and our family are to us and how important it is to gather with them, whether that be physically or virtually.”

The event, held in the David L. Eisler Center’s Fine Arts Gallery, attracted a small but talkative crowd. Throughout the talk, many people asked questions and shared their thoughts about the current piece of art that Foulk was discussing.

Photo by: Maddie Epps

Among those in the talkative audience was Swearingen. At one point, Swearingen mentioned the sociological concept of a “third place,” which is a place where people spend time between home and work.

The discussion of the “third place” led to Swearingen’s biggest takeaway of Foulk’s talk.

“The ‘third place’ and the ritual of eating and drinking together is a fundamental function,” Swearingen said. “Humans have what we need in our society. We need to get together, we need to share drinks, we need to share food, we need to laugh and we need to sing songs together… This is a fundamental part of who we are as human beings.”

Swearingen also mentioned that these “needs” aren’t assigned to one culture because it’s “just a human thing.”

Foulk’s presentation featured many different pieces of art. Some of the pieces featured in the presentation were Édouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” from 1882, a third century mosaic of a skeleton with a message of “Be Cheerful, Enjoy your Life” and Gerret Willemsz’s “Still Life with Fruit Pie and Various Objects” from 1634.

In the theme of the talk, Foulk was able to make connections between old still life paintings of food and contemporary Instagram food pictures.

Foulk believes that image-making, along with being with our friends, is still so very important to people. No matter the medium, be it mosaic or taking photos for social media, being able to commemorate our time with friends is what makes us human.

This longstanding theme of how much humans crave being out with our friends is so easily applicable to Big Rapids.

The existence of bars like StarShooters, Paz, Sawmill Saloon and the Gyspy Nickel stand as a testament to eating, drinking and being merry.

“I think the place has changed and the type of food has changed,” Foulk said. “But there is that basic humanity that we all share where we like to have a drink. We’d like to have a meal. We just like to have a conversation with our friends. For a lot of people that’s a coffee shop, rather than a bar, but it’s being with your friends and having that time to sort of sit down and let the rest of the world slip away.”