When walking into Live Café 163 S. Oak Park Ave., as in any other coffee shop, the aroma of coffee immediately hits the nostrils. Almost as instantly as that first intake of oxygen, the artwork, bold and bright, catches the eye and commands attention. Turning the typically mundane experience of grabbing coffee into a sensory symphony.
“I’ve been going to art school my whole life, so I think I have pretty decent taste,” said Live Café manager Sloane Crawford.
A familiar face among Live regulars, Crawford curates the ever-changing collection of featured art and organizes the café’s monthly “Coffee and Colors” events, the next of which is Dec. 28 with artist Gobee Harris. Harris’s paintings currently decorate the café’s walls.
“We feature minority artists, so when I saw her work, I really felt like it spoke to the culture and the community of black women,” said Crawford.
Painted in vivid colors with strong lines, Harris’s work on display at Live features portraits of African Americans. One piece, titled “Celebration,” features confetti falling on a woman in cat-eye sunglasses.
“It’s beautiful!” Crawford gushed.
All but one portrait features a woman. Like real women, the women in Harris’s portraits have different hair, different style, different character.
“There are so many aspects of women and especially women of color. I think right now, in 2019 going into 2020, it’s finally a moment where people are realizing you can’t just characterize black women,” Crawford said. “We get to speak for ourselves and say who we are, what we are, what we do, and we can be as different as we want to be. We have that right.”
The sole male subject is a portrait of the late activist and rapper Nipsey Hussle. As an artist, Harris has a clear point of view and sense of style.
“The boldness of her work is unapologetic. It’s not asking for permission to be in this space. It’s owning the space,” said Crawford. “And that’s what the café is.”
An artist herself, Crawford is a trained jazz singer. Her link to the art community helps her find new and exciting artists to feature in the café.
“I do community work and I also do a lot of art enrichment programs, so I meet a lot of artists,” she said. Crawford also uses social media to find artists.
When she finds an interesting artist she’d like to feature in the café, Crawford sends pictures of the artist’s work to Live owner Reesheda Graham Washington for final approval. Then Crawford irons out the details with the artists.
Crawford is particularly excited for the Dec. 28 “Colors and Coffee,” featuring Harris’s work. From 7-9 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to engage with the artist and enjoy Live music. Harris is also bringing new pieces. Tickets are free, but people should RSVP on Eventbrite to give the café an expected headcount.