Hava Java – Interview with Curator Melissa Elias
Hava Java (https://havajavacoffee.com/) is the local coffee shop literally around the corner from us on 32nd and Camelback in Phoenix, AZ. I was thrilled to be the featured artist for their rotating exhibits – you can see my work there until September 8th, 2017!
I wanted to get a little background on the who, why, and how of Hava Java’s rotating artist feature so I asked their curator, Melissa Elias, if I may interview her. Find out what brought her into the curatorial space as well as her own artistic history and path below. Plus – have a look at my work hanging up in this wonderful cozy little coffee shop.
How long have you worked at Hava Java?
I have been working at Hava Java for two years now.
When did you start curating the artwork?
I took over curating the artwork at Hava in January 2017. The previous lady that was
in-charge of it moved on to other projects and it left the position open to in-house
employees or outside hire. Since I was already going to school for Fine Arts and taking
charge of a space as curator would be an impressive addition to my professional
resume, I expressed my interest to Lance, the manager at the time, to take over that
responsibility. I remember he was incredibly pleased to hire someone within and that it
was none other than me!
How did you get interested in art and curation?
It’s a very curious question.
My passion for art has been engrained in me for as long as I can remember. Oddly
enough, I would say that it wasn’t much of a choice but more of a natural ability that I
was fortunate enough to be blessed with. Even though I will have to admit that I
became self-aware of it and began polishing these abilities by age 14! I always had
this innate inclination to the arts, but as I grew older and became more aware of the
struggles in life, I realized that a career in Fine Arts would not necessarily make me
skyrocket in the economic spectrum.
So I opted for Languages and Translation with a focus in Spanish, (I am a true fanatic
of travel, accents, languages, cultures, traditions, and communication) but that didn’t
last very long since I knew I wasn’t whole-heartedly invested in it.
So I made another bold move and finally decided to try to make something out of art
by applying to ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Art Education
Program. This soon made me realize that I had been going around the one thing that
made sense to me, which was painting and making art. So I slowly transitioned to the
final move and made it into the Painting program at Herberger.
As far as curating, I have been actively involved in art shows and art festivals with my
friends back home in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico and San Luis, AZ (I
come from a very small bordertown 30min south of Yuma) for some years now through their foundation Consciencia Colectiva which aims to promote an active art movement in our town.
I moved to Phoenix three years ago, I was a founder, main curator, and created the
logo of the booming Art Gallery/Bar and Lounge, “La Galería,” in Mexico. I think my
passion for art naturally lapsed over to curatorship and recruiting talented artists in
order to help them expose their work and become more involved in the art scene.
La Galería Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10000961591811
What do you look for when finding artists for the shop?
Specifically geared towards Hava Java, I look for artists whose work is leaned towards
the PG-13 spectrum. Being that is a family coffee house, I am conscious of the kids
and parents that walk into the shop and I always want to make sure that what is on the
walls will not be offensive, vulgar, violent, political, etc…
I don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable through art; I want people to actually enjoy what is on the walls and potentially invest in the amazing work that artists make. With that in mind, I’ve realized that the work that makes more sense for such a small warm coffee house are large, colorful, fun pieces that makes our guest stop and take notice of them!
Who have been some of your favorite artists that you’ve put up?
I respect and admire all of the artists that I have exhibited at Hava Java. There are some, though, that I completely melt over:
Natalie Strait https://www.instagram.com/nectarine_art/
Papay Solomon https://www.instagram.com/papaysolomon/
And you Skye, of course! There are still plenty of new artists that I have my eye on to showcase at Hava Java. All in due time!
A BIG thank you to Hava Java for supporting local artists and Melissa Elias for the interview.
My Artwork AS the August Featured Artist at Hava Java