Coffee shops offer many pleasures for the senses: the aroma of fresh-roasted beans, the taste of a perfectly crafted cappuccino, the warmth that radiates out from a ceramic mug on a cold day. But many coffee shops enhance their patrons’ experience by displaying local artwork on the walls.

The Starbucks in Greenpoint, Brooklyn displays different artwork every month, most of which is created by Polish artists.

Artist Janusz Skowron has been curating shows at the coffee shop since it opened four years ago. “When Starbucks opened in 2007, I suggested making exhibits of Polish art,” Skowron said.

Though the art is almost all Polish, patrons won’t get bored or even see a pattern between the monthly exhibits.

“There’s nothing like a link that ties the artists nationally,” Skowron said.  “Art is universal. There are no cultural differences.”

Skowron takes pains to keep the exhibits fresh. The shop displays “a variety of different art,” he said.  “Every month I try to showcase different forms of visual art, such as drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, illustration, and relief sculpture.”

There are certain considerations one must make when displaying in a coffee shop rather than a traditional gallery or museum. “We prefer things to be properly framed with good wiring so nothing falls over someone’s head,” Skowron said.

He also takes care in choosing art that is appropriate for the location. “Because coffee shops have low lighting, I prefer art that is visible. It has to stand out. It has to have colors.” While monochromatic work is sometimes chosen for the displays, it must be large enough to be seen well even in low light.

While artists are aware that “It’s not a gallery, it’s a coffee shop” as Skowron likes to tell them, he said that in the four years he has worked on the art at the Greenpoint Starbucks, there has never been a spill that has damaged one of the pieces.

“The patrons like it a lot,” said Vladimir Brezau, the store manager. Skowron, too, has heard positive feedback about the art there.

“What gives me pleasure from doing these shows is the enthusiastic feedback I get from the people who go to Starbucks,” Skowron said.  “Someone once told me that this is probably the only place in the U.S where, for the last several years, Polish art is displayed all day, everyday.”

Greenpoint is a vibrant neighborhood, with many artists and art lovers. However, Starbucks still has some corporate guidelines that govern what may be displayed.  “Nudity is out of the question,” said Skowron.  Violence is also verboten.  Aside from these standards, though, virtually any subject matter is acceptable.

“There’s a whole range.”  Skowron doesn’t focus on one particular subject matter or style; he’s just looking for great art.

The idea for having cyclical displays of Polish art came to Skowron while walking through Greenpoint. He noticed that after September 11, Greenpoint changed into a hip neighborhood with boutiques, pubs, artists’ studios and galleries, and thought rotating Polish artists in the Starbucks would be a good fit for the area.

This month will feature a new and unique display. Thirty-six artists who have shown at the Starbucks over the past four years will have pieces displayed again, together. The show will last for the next seven weeks.

“This will be a show like Starbucks has never seen,” Skowron said. “It’s a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with Polish art.”

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