Donuts from the sky

Baked Goods
By PHILIP EIL  |  December 19, 2012

TJI_Donuts_main
BUCKET BRIGADE Joe DeGeorge, Folan, and Delegard.

Just after 6:30 on Tuesday evening, a metal bucket tied to a white rope descends from a third floor window at AS220's 115 Empire Street artist residences. Inside the bucket is a paper bag containing a warm, crunchy, just-fried, sugar-dusted donut. A sign at street level reads: "WINDONUTS DIY DONUT SHOP . . . PAY WHAT U WANT, ENJOY A DELICIOUS DONUT."

Is it performance art? A commercial scheme? An act of protest against the Donut Industrial Complex?

It's a bit of everything, according to the team of artists in the kitchen upstairs.

Brian Folan, a writer who lives at AS220, used to work at a chain donut shop. He describes an Orwellian scene where assembly-line workers dump ingredients from boxes and load them onto conveyor belts. "There's hardly any actual human interaction that goes into making the donuts," he says.

Here, the experience is a bit more tactile. Artists are rolling dough and using a highball glass (for the outer ring of the donut) and a bottle cap (for the donut hole) to cut out shapes. The flat rings are dropped into a pan of oil for about thirty seconds to bubble and brown.

As they puff up, a baker plucks out the donuts with chopsticks and lays them on a bed of paper towels, where a garnish of homemade frosting awaits. The room is increasingly filled with dense, sweet smoke.

Windonuts is the main project for December Artist-in-Residence Lee Delegard, the sculptor and installation artist who stands at a table littered with eggs, flour, cinnamon, bowls, and spoons. The pay-what-you-want model makes people consider their idea of value, she says: "What is our hard work and our giving you this delicious donut worth to you?"

Amanda Burgess, another artist and Windonuts team member, says this particular shop rates slightly lower on the gluttony scale than the average donut depot. "You're already standing on the sidewalk, at least you're not sitting on your ass," she says.

Down on the street, a small crowd is gathering. Though it's not as large as Jadrian Miles would like it to be. "This is making me really sad about the state of humanity," the full-bearded, Brown University Computer Science PhD student says. "You try to give people free, delicious donuts . . . and people are just walking by . . . It's like they don't trust it."

He and a friend, Adj Marshall — an installation artist also living at AS220 — see Windonuts as a classic performance art "happening" designed to observe human reactions.

"It changes the way that people are interacting with the space," Marshall says. "They lower the bucket down and people walk around it."

Within seconds, the complexion of the scene changes, though. A man with long silvery hair barrels down the sidewalk, grinning. "Hey, I was born in Palermo, Sicily," he shouts up. "And my grandmother used to lower a basket and the bread man used to put the bread [in]." He grabs a donut, takes a bite, and yells "Perfecto!" before heading off.

Minutes pass and more pedestrians ignore the bucket. Others smile and chuckle. One turns down the offer apologetically, citing a gluten allergy. Then a man who goes by the name "Big Mike" ambles by, eyeing the bucket with a mix of curiosity and suspicion.

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  Topics: This Just In , food, AS220, donuts
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