Some of the best moments happen at coffee shops. Catching up with old friends. The makings of new friendships. People-watching out of a large window in a foreign city. The sound of an espresso machine steaming milk as you take a bite out of the best croissant you’ve ever tasted. A sweet, midday date with a love interest, trying to hang onto every fleeting moment, knowing the moment will eventually end. How is it that stepping into a coffee shop has the power to entrance its visitors with aromas and a familiarity almost without fail?
I once spoke to a coffee shop owner who joyfully watched some patrons sipping on coffee, simultaneously formulating a nonprofit idea right before his eyes. Sadness followed as he reminded himself he was struggling to make it as a coffee shop owner, but the value of providing a community space with opportunities to build meaningful relationships was undeniable and could not be measured with money.
Some of my best moments also happen in art spaces. Like in the classroom, when I describe an artwork with detail and excitement and facilitate deep conversations with high schoolers. Or at galleries, when I get to remove myself from the world I know and become enveloped for a moment in an artist’s brushstrokes, dissolving more and more from my own reality and fully embracing theirs. Artwork transcends the two native tongues I speak; art expresses those feelings and ideas that words cannot.
People who discover the true nature of visual and performing arts understand that there is a moment when a particular artform strikes them with overwhelming emotion for the very first time (yeah… I have cried, laughed, caught goose bumps, and felt anger, yet not all at once). I bumped into our veterinarian on a hike up Badger Mountain mid-winter and we spoke about art. Imagine my amusement as he described Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows. He was excited to share the deep emotive moment it brought him. This painting has the most striking yellow ocre, with splashes of indigo, olive green, and the most turbulent black birds flying through the artist’s composition. This was the master artwork that hit him so hard emotionally, impossible to describe. I had an identical reaction to this exact painting in my younger days. Although our experiences were years apart, they were undeniable and life-changing.
Is what my veterinarian experienced with Van Gogh reproducible in the Tri-Cities? Could we create a space that offers a high degree of access to artwork and facilitators who model how to view, process, and relate to artwork on walls? Could we provide a space that normalizes opportunities to dig deep into our personal circumstances to find meaningful intimate conversations with artists through the artwork they create? Before we call our hypothetical space a gallery, need I remind you that galleries carry with them a stigma of elitism and high class. Art should be accessible to all. So, then, what if we took this idea a bit further and instead of calling it a gallery we called this space an experience? What if we gave our community an experience?
But marketing an ‘experience’ proves difficult. How about we get around the gallery stigma and ‘trick’ you in through its doors with coffee? Coffee shops are safe spaces that invite community and conversation. Let us create the feeling of comfort and safety through the ruse of a coffee shop, and with this, you, our visitors, drop your guards organically. Now we can peel back emotional layers through the art.
Once we have you as our coffee shop guest, hypothetically, we can introduce the art with a simple yet effective analysis process. No, this is not school, and you will not be quizzed on it next week. (*Disclaimer: This analysis process was perfected at the high school level over the last four years.) In our hypothetical space, the process isn’t taught; it’s facilitated. That means baristas point patrons in the right direction while providing the tools necessary to listen to the visual music the artists create. This is where the magic happens. If facilitated properly, our visitors will have multiple opportunities to explore the art on walls, not as decoration, but as a record of someone else’s experiences and how they may relate to their own. Our hypothetical space will invite the visitor to view specifically curated artwork that has significance and that reflects the human experience.
What could possibly happen when you combine coffee and art? You might just get Café con Arte, a community space in downtown Pasco. We hope to see friends comparing personal stories inspired by artwork on walls. We expect to see a mother sharing a story with her child about a memory because of the imagery in a painting. We anticipate a bus full of elementary students realizing that their experiences as East Pasco kids are worthy of being celebrated in a gallery space. You should expect to be able to see a celebration of life and personal circumstances that shape the human experience. You will be able to sit there contemplatively or have deep conversations with the people you are with. The space is expected to be a conversation starter to something more.
Saul Martinez and Alexia Estrada have been working for over two years to bring Café con Arte to life, and they plan to open doors this Spring 2023. Café con Arte will be located in Downtown Pasco, across from Peanuts Park. Their space will be a blend of coffee and cultural art gallery with the hopes to host exhibitions, poetry nights, art workshops, and more. To find out more information, visit www.cafeconarte.org or check out the Kickstarter page: kickstarter.com/projects/cafeconartetc/cafe-con-arte-a-community-space-art-coffee-cultura