We've all glanced up along the interior walls at our local coffee shop while waiting for our drinks to be made to see artwork hanging. It's nothing new for a cafe to be embracing the work of local artists, but there is a big difference between just asking someone to throw some of their work up on the walls to fill the space and actually partnering with a talented artist to celebrate their portfolio. The latter is exactly what Canada's premier roaster and cafe chain, Phil and Sebastian is setting out to do in Calgary.
"The roaster had the idea to bring in these one-night events as part of their new initiative to 'change coffee culture'. I have come on as curator for the first three months to help them launch this series," explains Emma Justine, owner of ART SPOT. Justine's popular grassroots art initiative has been active in Calgary's arts community for many years and both hosts and promotes a variety of arts programming around town on a monthly basis.
She continues: "Working with venues that are not [set-up like standard galleries] can be tricky when exhibiting in the long term, it can be hard to showcase the work properly. For example, in a dimly-lit restaurant or bar, the art that you see on the wall isn't always showcased at its best. That is what makes this 'one-night pop-up' unique."
Here, the goal is to not simply put up a mix of art on the walls around the chain's Mission location. Instead, the cafe will be clearing out the room almost entirely and creating a gallery-like ambience, something which is rarely seen in a restaurant setting. The initial ART HOUSE gallery night happens Thursday, September 15th and features local street and graphic artist, The Doktoer. Dates are still being finalized, but art, coffee and food fans alike can look forward to a striking Modern Vandella exhibit by Made X Forever in October and a unique line-up of art installations by Ryan Smitham in November.
"I do think Calgary's food scene does well in terms of bringing art (and music) into their establishments," says Justine. "People enjoy treating all of their senses when they dine, and I think restaurant owners know that. However, I do believe that there could be more support for local visual artists."
It is an interesting point for her to bring up, as virtually every (smart) restaurateur these days works within the frames of a locally-sourced mentality. Clearly, that goes for the ingredients a chef may be using, the boutique spirits and craft beer you'll find behind the bar and so on; which begs the question: why don't we look at highlighting locally-produced art in restaurant interiors the same way? This move by Phil and Sebastian is certainly an exciting step in the right direction.
Also, see below for a few glimpes into past work of the upcoming featured artists.