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Would You Like Some Art With Your Coffee?

The local art and cafe scenes converge

Art and coffee are a natural pairing and, with Southwest Minneapolis a hub for both, it’s no surprise that some of our favorite local caffeine stations double as galleries. The cafe art scene in Southwest is healthy — if evolving — and coffee shops continue to serve as both community gathering places and fitting sites for showcasing the work of our many local artists. 

That said, coffee shops sometimes face a bit of a hurdle being viewed as legitimate art venues. Merry Beck, owner of and curator of the rotating art at Beaujo’s Wine Bar & Bistro in Edina, has an idea why. 

“I think that part of the reason coffee shop shows have a bad reputation is because the establishments do not do enough to rotate works and maintain the general appearance of the works in the space, or educate their employees about the artworks,” Beck said. “If all of those factors are handled with care, offsite shows can be a wonderful opportunity for both galleries and artists.”

Both Dunn Bros. locations in Southwest Minneapolis are trying to do just that. 

Griffin Johnson, a Dunn Bros. barista, has handled the art in each Southwest Minneapolis Dunn Bros. location (at and in ) for the past six months. A graffiti and tattoo artist himself, Johnson wants to make art a more integral part of the coffee shops.  

“We’re bringing it back to the old, classic coffee shop,” Johnson said, “where it revolves around art, people and the community around it.” 

Not only does Johnson plan to rotate the art on a more regular basis but he plans to host opening events for each new artist, hoping to showcase the coffee shops as legitimate and merited places to hang art. Johnson said he recently met with a local photographer for an upcoming Dunn Bros. show which, he opined, is going to be “amazing.” 

Other neighborhood cafes like have come to be places where the community can expect to find a maintained and changing selection of local art. The still young Royal Grounds has also gotten into hanging local art, showcasing three artists in the past eight months, two of whom were customers and one an employee.

Jim Heider, Royal Grounds's owner, said so far he’s had to do very little to show local art in the coffee shop, as the artists generally find him and express interest in putting up their work. This is the case with most cafe art, and a reason coffee shops can be great places to discover artists in the area: they are customers too. 

Of course, it doesn’t always go as planned. The wildly popular had been hanging a rotating selection of local art on its walls, curated by fellow 46th and Grand-er Tammy Ortegon of . But they got a little more than they bargained for, Ortegon said. The cafe would send inquiring artists to Ortegon, who soon had several artists a week bringing her examples of their work. The one- and even two-month shows went by too quickly to keep up with, and eventually Patisserie 46 decided to hire a photographer to do pictures of their pastries to hang on the walls instead. 

But hanging work in a cafe can be a great way for an emerging artist to display his or her work to a substantial number of people–a way to break into the art scene through the cafe doors. 

“I think that coffee shop/restaurant shows can increase awareness of an artist’s work, and are wonderful opportunities to expose a wide variety of people that may not come into galleries or artist studio spaces on their own,” Merry Beck said. 

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