Traditionally hearth’s served as the communal epicenter for a public. As opposed to our more modern bakeries, wherein one would go and purchase bread, with the traditional public hearth individuals would make their own dough – whatever variety they chose – to bring to a communal oven to be baked by a resident baker and picked up later that day. In this sense community hearth’s acted as a commons: an open site with a singular purpose that allowed itself by its nature to encourage a variety of ambiguous relationships to form through proximity and daily use.
In what can be viewed as an expanded act of publication, Open Hearth is a working neighborhood oven located on the boundary line between a private residence and a public alleyway in South Minneapolis, MN. It serves as a site to bake and cook together, a place to meet and talk, and an area to discuss and promote ideas which might deserve broader consideration, aided by a broadsheet publication, entitled FOCUS, aimed at serving as a space to distill and disseminate conversations which might take place around the public which materializes around Open Hearth. Inasmuch FOCUS serves as a sounding board for topics of interest to Open Hearth’s public as well as a means, through its distribution throughout the surrounding neighborhood, to invite others to join the conversation.
The epistemological latin root of hearth translates, roughly, to focus, or focal point, even directly to fire. It is this notion – a contemplative space, a space of comfort, a site of energy – that maintains the conceptual center of Open Hearth; a desire, leading to a collective action, to create one of many possible common areas of focus within the neighborhood in which we live. A site wherein neighbors come together and, in a fluid and non-prescribed manner, discuss and share their interests and discrete knowledge with one another to be, in turn, shared further afield with the neighborhood as a whole.
Open Hearth is fired at random. Neighbors can join a text message service which will announce when the hearth will be fired at least 24hrs in advance. Furthermore, a steam whistle is blown, each time the hearth reaches its optimal temperature, announcing to neighbors within earshot that Open Hearth is active.