There’s a third place where coffee is consumed in Rochester, in an edifice that is a piece of art itself – the building was owned by the Symington corporation and was an armory factory in WWI and WWII and subsequently a shoe factory - is now where coffee, community and art-driven Joe Bean Coffee Roasters resides, as a historical testament to Rochester’s’ progressive era roots by where Joe Bean proclaims the culture of coffee is its life. .
Such love drives their monthly art exhibitions culled from community oriented locals. While Joe Bean existed for four years before occupying this space as of last May, it was then that Joe Bean took on a personal challenge and extended it to their customers.
“We wanted to challenge perception right away; we wanted to emphasize that coffee is art, coffee is beautiful and we should care.” said Benjamin Woelk Joe Bean’s Director of Marketing and Gallery Curator. With that ethos, they joined First Friday – a monthly, citywide event premiering the First Friday of every month – engineered by Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo), which facilitates collaboration between venues and artists.
Joe Bean’s inaugural exhibit last spring featured works by artists who documented Joe Bean’s brew methods and coffee art. Beyond turning their own work into an exhibition, past months included slow food collaboration, a preview of institutional art works and even a themed exhibition “Revisiting Rochester” which displayed progressive era prints, lithographs and digitally restored photos dating back to 1905.
“We’re always looking for what makes sense and also paying attention to what is happening in pop culture. The First Friday movement was a natural decision for our space; art makes a lot of sense for us, and it’s a community we really wanted to support,” said Woelk.
Such commitment to the movement is what Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Executive Director and Curator, Bleu Cease says, “makes Joe Bean ideal. They are proactive and really push the weight of First Friday. They help make active and visible something we built for the whole city.”
Since First Friday’s inception, when just five venues participated, the gallery now features up to 30 venues monthly, with program management coming from RoCo staff and interns. Now, this art initiative is seem as part of the fabric of the Rochester community with locals hopping multiple spaces within the standard 6-9 p.m. time frame to see as much art as they can.
Participating RoCo art venues listed and tagged as preferred galleries -like Joe Bean- are required to bring a level of commitment to the program including participating in at least nine First Fridays throughout the year, promoting it on emails and websites and a modest participation fee of $100 per year.
While Cease admits the city has its challenges they are maintaining a healthy art scene by encouraging “diversity of venues, diversity of aesthetics while being wide open and engaging anyone who can make the commitment.”
Given that there isn’t a boundary – aesthetics or educational – RoCo allows different levels of displays within the First Friday framework, from high school artists to small museums like itself showing artists who have appeared in the Smithsonian or on an international level. “We’re a huge advocate of alternative venues like coffee shops, it’s different from what we do, but that’s the whole point,” said Cease.
To that end, starting tomorrow on April’s first Friday, locals and visitors can see Urban Cultura: Green Culture & Cultivation. This timely exhibit, it’s also Earth Awareness Month, is a “living green gallery dedicated to emerging growth initiatives in Rochester, featuring plants and recycled planters from Grow Green and ceramics from local artists,” according to Joe Bean’s official exhibit description.
Additionally RoCo, gets in on their action this Friday as well with four artists presenting Work It: Artists Address Labor and Unemployment. If you’re wishing you could show your support for these exhibits but are unable to attend, RoCo invites you to create a piece of art yourself for its 6x6x2012 small art benefit in honor of the museum which smdlr will be submitting to as well.
It’s evident that RoCo is a gateway for contemporary art in Rochester, and Joe Bean’s translation of its First Friday mission, is sure to continue to steam a lasting tradition of defining new paths to progressivism built upon a couple not splitting anytime soon, coffee and art. – cde
joe bean photos courtesy of joe bean, RoCo photos courtesy of RoCo.