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Stephanie S. Shih dumpling
Photograph: Courtesy Stephanie S. Shih

A Brooklyn baker and a NYC artist raffle off art to feed those in need

ACQ Flour Bank combines good deeds with delicious bread.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

Making food while doing good has become the modus operandi during this very hard year—as noted by a new initiative dubbed ACQ Flour Bank that seeks to raffle off art in an effort to raise funds to donate bread to food insecure people in south Brooklyn.

The origins of the project can actually be traced back to ACQ Bread Co., a "bread speakeasy" established by baker Tyler Lee Steinbrenner about a year ago out of a small kitchen inside a Carroll Gardens townhouse. 

At first donating bread to hospital workers, political activists and volunteers, starting July, Steinbrenner began selling the treat to restaurants and neighborhood folks. The baker takes $0.50 from the sale of each loaf ($9-$15) to contribute to a flour pool that's used to cook more bread that is then donated to the Brooklyn Relief Kitchen, which prepares meals for soup kitchens. 

Fast forward a few months, when artist Stephanie H. Shih first noticed signs for Steinbrenner's bakery in her neighborhood and decided to reach out to set up a collaboration. "The [bakery's] anti-capitalist ethos aligns with my politics," explains Shih, whose work focuses on ceramics, via email.

The duo came up with ACQ Flour Bank (ACQ, by the way, stands for "anti-conquest," in reference to Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin's 1892 book The Conquest of Bread), whose aim is to donate bread to those in need by raising funds through art sales. Specifically, artists are called upon to raffle off their own work and donate the proceeds to the cause.

"Tyler and I believe that it's possible—and imperative—for business owners and artists alike to incorporate mutual aid into their everyday practices," says Shih. "Doing good should not be something we dabble in just in times of emergency. We hope we can be examples of that."

Steinbrenner echoes his partner's sentiments: "I hope we can use the project to envision a more compassionate and inclusive ecosystem," he says. "I think pairing art with direct gestures of care and nourishment, while inverting class structures, is one way to express that."

The first raffle, which is now live, focuses on one of Shih's own creations: a golden kintsugi dumpling. "Win the only kintsugi gold dumpling I'll ever make," writes the artist on her Instagram page, where the raffle is promoted and explained. Each entry costs $5 and folks can join in on the fun by sending cash via Venmo or PayPal. According to her social media feed, Shih will announce the random winner this upcoming Saturday night.

Moving forward, each artist will be expected to host his or her own raffle on social media, but an official website that includes resources and instructions for interested participants will launch next week.

As noble as the initiative is, we'd be remiss not to discuss the two types of bread that the baker prepares daily. The first, a sourdough version, is "designed to highlight the powerful complexity of deeply fermented Einkorn flour," explains Steinbrenner on his website. The second one, a milk bread, is slightly more complex, prepared by cooking flour and rice in a porridge that the baker calls Tangzhong, which, "much like mochi, is folded into fresh organic milk." Feel free to order some right here.

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