Bird Rock Coffee Roasters brews up new option: art

by: Kendra Hartmann

Bird Rock Elementary School students regularly have their work displayed at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, along with the work of other artists. Courtesy photo by Pearl PreisIn December, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (BRCR) owner Chuck Patton decided to throw a fundraiser for his long-time employee, Jocylynn Breeland. Breeland had recently been injured in a train accident in Little Italy that left her without a right arm and part of a foot, and Patton mobilized the community, bringing more than 1,200 people to the coffee shop and raising about $30,000 for Breeland’s recovery. Part of that event involved a live auction, during which local artwork was displayed and sold. And that, Patton said, was just the beginning.

After the fundraiser, Patton started to realize how much great art was being created locally — much of it by his patrons and neighbors. And with plenty of wall space to fill (including the newly vacated space where the Bird Rock History Museum had previously resided), Patton had the idea of creating a de facto art gallery.

Along with acting curator Jane Wheeler, herself an artist with work on the coffee shop’s walls, Patton has turned one-half of the shop into a rotating gallery, with new work up every month — more or less.

“We try to change it every month, but it’s really just as it works out,” Wheeler said. “It just comes by word of mouth, and it has just kind of evolved. It just sort of happens, which is the best way.”

In addition to continuing the art displays that began with the fundraiser, Patton has also continued the philanthropic spirit of the gallery. A portion of all sales of the artwork currently goes to ArtReach, a nonprofit that brings art into public schools where there was none before. Patton and Wheeler, meanwhile, are talking about adding in other worthy charities to support with the artistic endeavor.

“It’s a great way to support local organizations that are doing great work in San Diego,” Patton said.

Currently on display at the coffee shop is a collection of work by artist (and BRCR barista) Cassidy Trapp, whose stark, stunning ink drawings of human bodies growing into — or out of — trees, plants and roots are remarkably striking. Opposite Trapp’s work is a wall of African-themed art — including an entire section featuring the work of students at Bird Rock Elementary. About every month or so, the shop receives a new batch of work from students at the school, and Wheeler said she tries to find art from local artists that compliments the student work with a common theme. This month, the students had produced a series with an African feel, so Wheeler found some appropriate work in the form of Randy Conner’s bright and bold paintings of zebras and elephant and Shannon Cunningham’s intensely creative acrylic-bedecked photos.

The coffee shop is now showing Jeff Robin’s creative paintings. Robin, a teacher at High Tech High School in Point Loma, often incorporates physics into his work, and may bring in some student work to the gallery. It’s all part of the inclusive, collective-like feel of the coffee shop and the neighborhood in general:?no artist left behind.

“It’s very community-oriented here,” Wheeler said. “Chuck is very giving, and this place is like ‘Cheers’ — everybody knows you. The whole thing has been very organic, with no strict formula. It loses its charm if it gets too official. It has just kind of evolved.”

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is located at 5627 La Jolla Blvd.

For more information, visit www.birdrockcoffeeroasters.com.

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