A cup of coffee from local café Zoe’s is not only freshly pressed but the beans travel 4,000 miles from Peru to their café. Zoe’s chooses to directly trade their coffee from the Quispe family in Villa Rica Peru where Benjamin, Anita and their three daughters, Valeria, Anna Marie and Linsi manage a small coffee farm. The small Christian family in Peru offered Zoe’s direct trade after the chance meeting from a mission trip to Lima in 2009. Anita and her family believed that destiny was pointing the family towards business with Zoe’s not only to expand their welfare as a family but to extend their faith across the Atlantic.
Recently artist Wes Bruce, twenty-eight-year-old from Northern California, joined creative minds with Zoe’s to initiate a connection between their customers and the Qusipe family. The solution was a mural, one that would enrich, empower and inspire change in the viewer. A vision that began in Peru before Zoe’s even opened and now transcends through art for the everyday public to engage with.
Bruce has been a part of the artistic community in Greeley creating such work as the deconstructed piano at Atlas Church, and breaking restrictive artistic stereotypes with his 3D projects. His art aims at “significant and vulnerable human connection,”which explains why his interest in what Zoe’s wished to achieve fit with his “freedom and responsibility to be inspired.”
With Bruce’s attention to the seemingly miniscule details of life, the project to connect the Quispe family with the public was done by making the commercialism of buying a cup of coffee and giving it meaning.
“When you stop something like this and you spread it out, adding story and color, taking it out of this millisecond time frame, then you can give it this slow deep breath,” says Bruce.
The breath of the piece edges toward challenging a faceless capitalist machine. Zoe’s has chosen direct trade with the Quispe farm in an effort to build relationships not an enterprise. They take pride in their ethical business practices. It’s no longer just a product, but a production of people and passion that creates the coffee they choose to serve.
They’re building a family, not finances.
The mural represents the bond between the two parties and the life behind every bag of coffee served. The outlines of North and South America are mounted evenly around the coffee tree, the material product in the middle is what allowed the two to work together. The expansion of color and recreated motifs spread outward from the center to capture how the relationship between Zoe’s and the Quispe family has manifested.
“It’s not just the coffee coming one way and the relationship stops there,” says Bruce explaining the balance of the piece. “It’s like this mutual empowerment that happens on both sides.”
When viewed from afar, the outline of the countries seem to stand as the only significance, but Bruce’s participatory art style uses suspended 3D objects drawing the viewer in closer to notice the finite details of the handmade wallpaper. Paper that features tiled photos of the Quispe family and zigzagging triangles to echo the original journey to Villa Rica, which took hours through the Peruvian mountains.
So how does this project of artistic creativity further change what Zoe’s has already begun?
It creates an interaction Bruce says. Art gives the story of the Quispe family an identity that all their customers can engage with no matter their creative knowledge.
Bruce, a graduate in art education from Point Loma Nazarene University believes that contemporary art has the potential to redefine what and who is an artist. He sees everyone in their own right as an artist, even in the mundane activities of the everyday, which grants everyone access to the basis of understanding art. It’s about perspective, engaging inspiration to do things creatively, causing interaction between the individual and their own medium. Successful art, according to Bruce, is something that gives life to the spectator and enriches the individual’s view as they continue on their day with a new insight.
“Art in society is a reminder of your own potential. It acts as this cue to take my creativity and my intuition and use that in a way that is imaginative and even virtuous, if I can use that word with it. You can be anyone you want to be and in a really positive way… it offers a challenge, not only to the status quo, but for people to find how their specific vocation can be a vessel for something else.”
That something else cycles the conversations that Zoe’s began when they invested their compassion in the Quispe family four years ago. With a fresh cup of roasted coffee and an open mind to opportunity, art offers a new lens to material society. After all “art isn’t art unless it questions the nature of art,” especially in a coffee shop.
Photos by: Kendra Hamman