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The Canvas Project: New York

September 27, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photos: Rebecca Smeyne

Six bartenders showcase the projects that engage their creativity beyond the bar.

The 2021 Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Canvas Project, presented by Bombay Sapphire, is dedicated to supporting the artistic passions that fuel creative bartenders across the country. Through a series of grants, the Canvas Project empowers bartenders to realize their imaginative pursuits in the form of projects that help knit neighborhoods and communities together. This year’s finalists, grouped by four major regional markets and working in a diverse array of mediums, are showcasing at gallery events this fall and winter the work that fulfills them when they’re not behind the bar.

Arguably the arts capital of the country, New York City is the place where jazz flourished in Harlem clubs, hip-hop took root on the streets of Bed-Stuy, and abstract expressionists, pioneering modern dancers, and Beat poets haunted the cafés and bars of downtown. The 6 finalists from the Northeast region—many of whom live in Brooklyn—will tap into that rich creative legacy when they come together here to display their Canvas Projects. These bartenders, working in pottery, photography, performance and painting, use art as a way to coalesce memory and meaning, whether by using portraiture to preserve the interiors of bars shuttered by COVID-19, or reconnecting with nature through ceramics.

MIKA KLOS-SHAKAID

Current city: Boston

What is your creative passion or outlet?
Illustration—specifically pen and colored pencil portraits of hospitality workers and bar interiors.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
My project [consists] of a series of portraits depicting sensational members of the hospitality community and their favorite drink to have at the end of their shifts, as well as illustrations depicting my favorite bar interiors, both [from locations] previously shuttered and currently open. My inspiration for this project came to me during the initial COVID-19 lockdown: I wanted to find a way to bring a streak of joy and happiness to all of my friends who had just recently been rendered jobless. As the project developed, I started documenting the bars that I missed sitting at, some of which I, sadly, would never be able to sit at again.

Follow along at @faces_ofindustry

SIHAYA HARRIS

Current city: Brooklyn

What is your creative passion or outlet?
My creative outlet is ceramics, usually wheel-thrown and featuring manipulated distortions, sculptural elements, or intricate painting. I like to experiment with new techniques and approaches to see where they may lead me.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
I am working on a set of vessels—wheel-thrown, modified and painted with slip [a clay-based mixture used for decoration]. The language of ceramics anthropomorphizes vessels, and I’m playing with that idea in the narrative of my work. I’m also exploring the representation of birth, consumption and decay.

Follow along at @chaos.ritual

COCO LIM HAAS

Current city: Brooklyn

What is your creative passion or outlet?
My primary creative outlet is ceramics. I explore images we take for granted in nature and culture and attempt to honor them by immortalizing them in sculptures.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
I [am] showcasing my Garden Vase Collection. After being relegated to spending most of 2020’s summer indoors, my appreciation and need for nature rose to unprecedented levels. I was introduced to this new version of myself at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, where I mentally wanted to stay. This feeling that I was appreciating nature’s gifts for the first time inspired me to make this collection that would allow me to lock into that mindset while hand-building with clay (which is essentially just dirt!).

Follow along at @cocolimhaas

ELIZABETH LEBARON
Photo: Eric Medsker

Current city: Brooklyn

What is your creative passion or outlet?
My passion is voice, specifically harmonies. I grew up in choirs and have been singing with my bandmate (Jake Zavracky) since 2015 under a project called The Dream Eaters.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
Over the pandemic, Jake and I started The Dream Eating Freakshow: a series of short songs and videos that are both a little dark and a little funny. We brainstorm skits together, he handles most of the songwriting, and we improvise a good chunk of the dialogue. We shoot and record everything at his place upstate. It’s a hoot! We’re writing something special for the showcase: a sort of love song to the Corpse Reviver No. 2. We’ve yet to incorporate anything bar-related, despite both being bartenders (we met working at our favorite local, Lowlands), so we thought it would be fun to tie it all together.

Follow along at @dreameatingfreakshow

KAYTIE KECK

Current city: Brooklyn

What is your creative passion or outlet?
Wearable art accessories—specifically utilizing lightweight polymer clay, resin, hand-painting, and beadwork.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
I’ll be showing the clay “cane” technique I use to produce unique abstract designs, as well as beadwork from my Native roots. The creative process [for the clay technique] starts with a large-format version of the design, molded with colored clays. This large model is slowly rolled into long logs (or “canes”), which shrinks the design to a jewelry size. Customers might assume the process is as easy as cookie-cutting and painting. This is very far from the case, and I will use the event to showcase what happens behind the scenes.

I grew up in a household that struggled to reconcile with its Indigenous roots. Using “seed” beads from a Native-owned shop, I have recently been incorporating woven beadwork into my clay pieces as a way to reconnect with this family history.

Follow along at @dangly_ones

ANISA FRANCOEUR
Photo: Riley Scott

Current city: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

What is your creative passion or outlet?
I’m a graphic designer by day and an artist by night. Stepping away from the computer and using my hands in woodworking or painting is my muse.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
Generally, I’m heavily inspired by the tattoo industry. Heavy lines, bright colors, and straight to the point. So I [am] creating three free-standing wooden cutouts of traditional tattoo-inspired paintings representing something fun about the community they’re placed in.

Follow along at @anisafrancoeur

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