According to Keene State College Arts Ambassador Chris Wardlaw, coffee houses aren’t just for first-years. The first ever Redfern Coffee House, which took place right in the lobby of the Redfern Art Center, featured live music, artwork on display, standup comedy and slam poetry.
“When you’re not a [first-year], I feel like there are no more coffee houses. Coffee houses are like a staple res hall event. When you’re outside of a res hall, that’s gone,” Wardlaw explained, “So we decided that we would do it for everyone else.”
Wardlaw worked hard with Arts Ambassador Marisa Benson to put together the coffee house last Thursday, Feb. 18.
Though Benson is an exercise science major at KSC, she said she has always loved the arts.
“I fell in love with art a couple of years ago, and I want to be an art therapist in the future,” Benson said, “I was drawn in, because I want to share casual art with people – movement and dance and singing – and allow people to be more artistic and more creative and less judgmental.”
The duo, with the help of the other Arts Ambassadors, will be hosting two more coffee houses in the Redfern Lobby, one on March 31 and one on April 28.
“The Redfern Lobby is a great place to congregate, and we really wanted to utilize the unutilized spaces,” Wardlaw said.
“People don’t come to the Redfern if they’re not in the arts,” Wardlaw continued, “And we want to have an opportunity for people to hang up their art, maybe people who aren’t art majors.”
First-year KSC student Rachel Stearns was one such artist who had her work on display.
“I initially heard about [the coffee house] through one of my friends, and also through [Benson], who is my RA [resident assistant]. I didn’t have to do anything to have my art hung up – just handed it to them and they put it on the wall,” Stearns said.
KSC junior Nikki Danish said she first heard about the coffee house from a friend as well.
“I originally wasn’t going to perform, I just wanted to see everyone else perform,” Danish explained.
Danish, who showcased an original spoken word poem, said that she really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of this particular coffee house.
“I love how not ironic it was. It’s not a Black Box theater with everyone wearing beanies,” Danish said, “Everyone’s just sitting on the floor, deciding halfway into it whether or not they want to get up there and perform. There are no stereotypes or expectations. No pressure. It’s not just one type of art being exposed, it’s all different types that are being showcased.”
Danish added, “I will definitely be attending the next two coffee houses.”
Wardlaw talked about the future for the Redfern Coffee Houses.
“We have high hopes for these coffee houses,” Wardlaw said, “Students are bored and this gives them something to do.”
Wardlaw continued, “People are really talented. There have to be more opportunities for them to show that off.”
Benson explained that the main idea behind hosting coffee houses each month this semester is “encouraging people to have fun and create, and giving yourself the liberty to really express yourself, and I feel like that’s generally undervalued. So that’s a big thing.”
Jill Giambruno can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.