Trip to Tampa Fresh Foods

Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | January, 2022

Inside Lucy Sparrow's "Tampa Fresh Foods" immersive art exhibit on Water Street, Tampa
William and Madeline in the meat section of "Tampa Fresh Foods"
Thomas grabbing one of Lucy Sparrow's cute cucumbers

Grocery shopping with young children is an adventure in itself but quite beneficial for practicing certain skills. It’s good practice for writing shopping lists; for math by counting produce and money, for organization and locating items; and for practicing my own patience by making sure everyone behaves up until the check-out counter.

Yesterday evening my three children and I went on a grocery shopping experience like no other, to a store where all the items were available for purchase but not consumable in their traditional sense. We took a trip to Water Street to see Lucy Sparrow’s art installation “Tampa Fresh Foods” on view until February 20th. Our objective was to buy a unique gift as a birthday present for my daughter’s friend, one of the 50,000 hand-created signed artworks. I also wanted to see what my three would make of an immersive art installation where everything was made entirely of felt.

Firstly, the “look, don’t touch” rule was abandoned when we entered the store. How could my kids resist the temptation to grab the cute felt objects with their black beady eyes beaming up at us. How could I? Thomas the younger one saw the felt art objects as toys. He wanted to pull them all out onto the floor as any toddler his age would so eventually I had to hold him.

Madeline loved the place, she wanted to explore every nook and cranny and was determined to find something that was not made of felt. She couldn’t. Even the dollar bills in the ATM were made of felt. She also took enjoyment in being the first to find the cutest items, the clams were especially cute. William was astonished by the attention to detail, including the logos on the puffed cheese packets. Out of the entire store, they were especially drawn to the vegetable, cheese, and seafood sections.

William, Madeline and Thomas exploring the cheese section
Madeline opening one of Lucy Sparrow's clams
William astonished by the details on the packaging

We made our way to the check-out, and that’s when they saw the eggs. They fell in love immediately, caressing and delicately holding them as though they were real eggs. We ended up buying more than one piece of artwork but it was worth every cent. We took a photo with the artist, Lucy Sparrow. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask her; would she describe the aesthetic as Kawaii? How did she feel about the current shopping trends especially with the onset of the pandemic? In her opinion has the distinction between fine art and craft been erased? How has the Tampa exhibit compared to her corner shop in London and convenience store in New York? Yet with three little ones vying for attention, all I could say was. “Thank you. Your work is amazing.”

Harriet (me), Thomas, William, artist Lucy Sparrow and Madeline
William, Madeline and Thomas outside Tampa Fresh Foods holding their prized possesions
Our adorable 'Lucy Sparrow' eggs at home.

Over the causeway on our return home, I tried to explain what ‘installation’ means, and how although others assist the artist in the production Lucy is the creator because she came up with the concept and design. I think I was processing the experience out loud, but my words fell on deaf ears as all three were busy playing with their new cherished possessions. The adorable eggs have now become part of our story and family and we are looking forward to seeing what Madeline's friend makes of her gift.

Fresh Foods Tampa is located on 1050 Water Street, Tampa, FL 33602. We parked on the street across from the exhibition space but parking garages are nearby. The exhibition is free to attend, and as mentioned items are for sale. I will advise those visiting with smaller children, there aren't any public restrooms close by.