“I went to the museum on the exhibit’s opening night and I had no idea what to expect. It was a great feeling to see people standing around the piece and talking about it,” Silva said. “This is my first work on display at a museum and I’m so happy and thankful for the entire experience.”
The chicken coop is part of the museum’s food exhibit, “Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish: A Gastronomic Look at Florida Jews & Food.” Spanning nearly 200 years, it features artifacts, figures and photographs of produce growers, ranchers, “ma and pa” grocers, distributers, butchers, bakers and renowned chefs who have helped shaped Florida’s gastronomic culture and history.
“This exhibit has been a long time coming,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, executive director and chief curator of JMOF-FIU. “We’ve always known that we wanted to have an exhibit on food, but there’s so much material, we could’ve filled three museums just on this subject! What we have now is a sampling of [those] who have contributed to the foods and memories we recall when we think of eating either at home or at a restaurant in Florida.”
Silva’s chicken coop is modeled after the wheeled chicken crate cart first fabricated by Ralph Gross in 1950. An egg packer and shipper from Kansas City, Gross moved to Florida with his wife in 1939 and purchased 40 acres of land on Broward Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Operating as Gross Farms, they sold chickens and eggs to local stores and to the Naval Air Station during World War II. Silva’s coop is 22 inches tall and 26 inches wide. It is made of pre-stressed pallet wood in a variety of colors, including cherry, walnut, red oak, maple, pine and poplar.
Artifacts on display from the following Jewish individuals or businesses include:
- Dr. Phillip Phillips (Orlando, FL): Named the “King of Citrus,” Phillips was the world’s largest citrus producer in the early 1990s. He developed the revolutionary process of flash-pasteurizing, allowing for the canning of juice without altering the taste.
- Sheldon’s Drugstore (Surfside, FL): With 18 retail drug stores, Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer was having breakfast at the Surfside location when he learned he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.
- Davie Dairy (Okeechobee, FL): Davie Dairy is home to more than 4,500 cows and produces 15,000 gallons of milk daily.
- Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant (Miami Beach, FL): Now in its 100th year, the iconic restaurant is still owned and operated by the family of Joe and Jennie Weiss, the first Jews to settle on Miami Beach.
- Burger King (Jacksonville, FL): Started by Ben Stein in 1955.
- Pollo Tropical (Miami, FL): Started by Larry Harris and Stuart Harris in 1988.
- Royal Castle: Started by William Singer in the 1930s.
- South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Miami Beach, FL): Originally a one-day festival, Lee Schrager took over in 2002 and produced a four-day event that has become a national destination to over 65,000 guests.
The food exhibit has also inspired a variety of public programs, including cooking demonstrations, films, a creative writing contest and a monthly walking food tour. The tours feature tastings from Jewish-owned restaurants, including My Ceviche, Aroma Espresso Bar, Pita Loca and Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant.
The “Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish” exhibit will be on display until October 2014.
JMOF-FIU, which joined the FIU family in 2012, is dedicated to the preservation of history and cultural significance of the Jews of Florida.