These Plates Are Full

Cafe Momentum's expressive art installation thankfully does double duty

Cafe Momentum's art installation thankfully does double duty

On January 29, Cafe Momentum opens at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas. The restaurant and culinary training facility for the city’s at-risk youth has been three-plus years in the making. It provides post-release paid internships to young men leaving juvenile detention at Dallas County Youth Village.

Occupying a prime location on the interior is an art installation called the I’m Thankful Plate Project, an idea hatched between executive director Chad Houser and Dallas artist Shane Pennington, whose friendship preceded Cafe Momentum. They wanted to not only honor the restaurant’s location but also give the interns in the program an opportunity to contribute something personal to their new home-away-from-home.

Each young man was given a plate and asked to write down or draw something for which he is thankful. Pennington then went over the messages with more permanent ink and took them to the Creative Art Center of Dallas to be fired and glazed. These expressions of gratitude now hang prominently in the dining room, mixed in with plates designed by notable Cafe Momentum supporters such as Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas Arts District executive director Catherine Cuellar.

But the plates have purpose beyond decoration; they also will be used as serving pieces. When someone orders a signature dish, the server will grab a plate from the wall and take it to the kitchen, where the staff will use it for that particular course. These “I’m thankful” messages will permeate the Cafe Momentum experience.

Houser and Pennington say eventually the plates will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit. To help replenish the stock, diners can participate in the project as well, by writing down their own messages on pieces of cardboard that will be offered at the restaurant soon after opening. Those that resonate most profoundly will be made into plates and added to the collection.

Watch the video above to learn more about the I’m Thankful Plate Project from the participants themselves. Cafe Momentum will be open for dinner Thursday-Saturday, 5:30-11 pm.

I'm Thankful Plate Project at Cafe Momentum
This expression of gratitude from intern Adolph is only one of many in the I'm Thankful Plate Project at Cafe Momentum. Photo by Jennifer Chininis