Churchview Farm

A third generation sustainable family farmette in Pittsburgh, PA


Digital Salad mixes art-making, technology, and farm education to produce interactive and edible learning experiences for classrooms, community spaces, and neighborhoods.

ounded in 2010, Digital Salad is a collaboration between media artist Heather Mallak and urban farmer Tara Rockacy of Churchview Farm. Using the farm as a backdrop for exploration and inquiry, Heather and Tara work to expand the boundaries of digital learning and artistic expression in both in- and out-of-school environments.

  • Art-Making: Planting the seeds of creative expression using media arts, painting, sculpture, web making, and writing.
  • Community: Cultivating community dialogue through artful and hands-on learning experiences.
  • Farm Education: Growing appreciation and knowledge of sustainable farming practices in urban environments.
  • Technology: Nurturing confidence in applied science by exploring seeds and STEM, pixels, and produce.

Based in Pittsburgh, PA, the project aims to make connections between the act of growing and the act of creating, and to discover the parallels between these two practices. Just as farmers plant seeds to yield a harvest, artists allow their inspiration to take root so that their ideas will germinate into meaningful work. Both creators and growers use ingenuity, passion, and dedication to make an impact on their communities and the world.

Digital Salad programs give students an opportunity to sample locally sourced vegetables–from heirlooms to rustic staples, design a virtual farm experience, engage in urban growing, and be exposed to the processes of harvesting fresh foods.The sessions, which can be one day or span multiple weeks, culminate with students creating artful responses to their observations. Focusing on the use of readily accessible technology–scanners, cameras, web-based tools–they produce pieces ranging from mixed media sculptures and digital collages to paintings and photographs. Past programs have resulted in gallery exhibitions and site specific installations of student work.

Digital Salad programming has been presented at the Mattress Factory, Assemble, and Winchester Thurston. These projects have included work with Chef Kate Romane of e2, CREATE Lab’s GigaPan, CMU’s FitWits program, Urban Gardener, Bob Sendell’s All in Good Taste, and independent artists Dror Yaron, Lexi Ribar, Dave Mansueto, Kevin Clancy, Susannah Mira, and Karl Burke, along with the support of many community members. Heather and Tara continue to work with a diverse collective of creatives, educators, and growers to help young people share and communicate their experiences through artistic expression.

The installation at Assemble was supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA), its regional arts funding partnership. State government funding for the arts depends upon an annual appropriation by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. PPA is administered in this region by Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

background photos by Heather Mull