Can Coffee Change the World?

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by Sarah Friedland, Staff Writer

Who doesn’t love coffee? I know I rely on it to get me through classes every day. But artist Steven Mikel needs coffee for a different reason – art.

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Mikel has been creating both abstract and realistic paintings using coffee as his medium since 2008. Previously, he had used traditional watercolor paints to “[reveal] the overlooked or unnoticed beauty… of the world around us,” as stated in the artist’s biography on his website, Sepia tones had always spoken to Mikel, compelling him to research the process of using coffee as a medium. The technique he uses guarantees his creations will last as long as any other traditional oil painting.

Mikel’s use of coffee began as an attempt to reduce waste from leftover brews. In 2007, Mikel and his wife brewed large pots of coffee to share with fellow churchgoers every Sunday. Oftentimes, most of a pot remained after the service. Audra Rogers, Mikel’s father-in-law, tried using the leftovers as water for the next morning’s pot of coffee.  The practice, which made the brew taste bad, surprised Mikel. Rogers promised Mikel to never use leftover coffee as the next brew’s water if Mikel could find an alternate use for it. Thus, coffee watercolors were born.

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“Waterside Walkway” was created using a blend from Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen and was commissioned for the grand opening of Standard Pacific Home’s new development “Waterside” in John’s Lake, Florida.

Mikel recently began a partnership with THRIVE Farmers, a sustainable coffee supply chain company. The partnership aims to reduce coffee waste and promote environmentally friendly coffee farming projects. THRIVE Farmers will provide Mikel with expired direct-source coffee to create his masterpieces. Mikel has promised to donate 10 percent of the proceeds from his paintings, ranging in price from $1000 to $7000, to aid in the mission to create sustainable coffee. Mikel expressed excitement for the partnership, stating on his website, “I will be able to use coffee that would have been wasted, brew it down into my Dark Roast Painting resin, paint my passion, and then give back to the industry I love by using some of the proceeds to impact the very communities that grow coffee.”

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With the shift in society to a more sustainable existence, Mikel’s paintings and partnership prove it can come from all aspects of life. Whether you drink it or paint with it, the popularity of coffee makes it the perfect device to spread awareness.

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