By HADLEY BARNDOLLAR, Staff Writer
Dalton Ryan and Rachael Galipo were sitting in their typical spot at Breaking New Grounds when they realized something was missing.
While good conversation filled the air and the aroma of warm, roasted coffee beans brought comfort, they weren’t visually enticed. It was that moment that sparked a creative revelation: Ryan and Galipo wanted to turn the cafe’s walls into an artistic sublime.
A month later, the duo has transformed Breaking New Grounds into a hub for student artwork.
“People were feeling very monotonous sitting here everyday with the same photographs,” Ryan, a senior biology major, said. “There was a disconnect with the artwork here. That’s something I prioritize when I go somewhere. I like it to be lively, especially a coffee shop.”
Planning to showcase two exhibits per semester, Ryan and Galipo are hungry for student submissions. Their first show had over 40 entries, and 26 were chosen for display for sale. So far, four pieces have been sold in under a month.
The pair met while they were both employed by the art entertainment event company, Paint Nite. Ryan was an artist instructor and Galipo, a sophomore psychology major, was his assistant. Paint Nite events take place at restaurants, where participants buy a ticket to learn to paint a specific image while indulging in food and drink.
“At Paint Nite, you’re glorified babysitting,” Ryan laughed. “All of the women are drunk. It’s a fun, social aspect.”
Both Ryan and Galipo found passion in art at a young age. Ryan was painting murals for businesses in his hometown, while Galipo picked up her grandfather’s camera and couldn’t put it down. Their devotion traveled with them to college, where Ryan practices art on the side and Galipo strives for a career in art therapy.
The planning process for the artwork launch at Breaking New Grounds lasted about a month.
“We got in touch with Todd [Govoni], who is the boss here,” Ryan said. “We sat him down, drew up some paperwork and said this is what we should do. We played tennis with the idea for a week or two, but it moved pretty fast.”
Within weeks, they were hanging up artwork. Galipo even received a pleasant surprise when one of her photographs was purchased before she could even hang it on the wall.
“I was hanging up [a photograph of mine] as a temporary piece, and I couldn’t even put it up,” Galipo said. “A guy bought it right off my hands. I was literally about to nail it into the wall.”
But for Ryan and Galipo, the showcase has nothing to do with their own artwork, and everything to do with everybody else’s. Their emphasis? Submit, submit, submit.
“We’re hoping it will bring a cycle of art here, a cycle of creativity,” Ryan said.
“We want to show it all off,” Galipo added.
The ultimate goal was to create a platform where any student would feel comfortable and confident to showcase his or her artwork. A subset of the goal was to get the art sold.
“Every artist wants to make money off of their art,” Ryan said. “If we give people an outlet to do that, it’s best-case scenario.”
Most of the pieces are currently $50 to $60, but there are some standouts, like a $300 intricate drawing. When a piece is sold, the artist has the option to donate five or 10 percent of the profit to a charity of his or her choice. So far, everyone has chosen to do so. Two charities that have been picked are the American Art Association and the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing for young people in New York City.
Junior studio art major Harry Slepian had his artwork on display for the first show in March.
“It’s exciting just seeing my art on display in public,” Slepian said. “Regardless of whether I sell anything, I’m happy to have the exposure. It’s also great being able to see all the art from my friends somewhere besides the [Paul Creative Arts Center].”
Calling the showcase a “local LinkedIn for artists,” Ryan says it’s all about the interaction.
“We get to know all of these artists and stay in touch,” he said. “It’s building connections.”
Ryan and Galipo have big goals for the future, including creating their own brick and mortar exhibit, as well as turning this idea into a larger pursuit; a nonprofit business that helps other businesses organize artwork.
“It’s an unconventional way of making money for other people,” Ryan said, as both the artists and Breaking New Grounds benefit from the profits. The coffee shop receives 10 percent of each sale. Ryan calls it a “symbiotic relationship.”
The duo hopes to expand the idea to new locations, as well. They referenced Dos Amigos in Dover and the Big Bean in Newmarket. Other goals include having open houses with live music on the first night of new exhibits and hosting viewings of local documentaries.
“Art is a very intimidating business, and it’s biased based on who you know,” Ryan said. “This is an unbiased forum for everyone to show their art. It’s our favorite coffee shop.”
As far as Galipo is concerned, they’re their own bosses, and that leaves room for maximum creativity. They’re currently brainstorming a permanent name for the showcase.
“We call this ‘our baby.’ It’s brought [Dalton] and I closer together,” Galipo said. “We wanted to show off the students of UNH and what they’re capable of doing.”
Ultimately, aside from spicing up their favorite downtown hangout, Ryan and Galipo wanted to illustrate the innovative and gifted nature of Durham and its residents.
“We have an unbelievably creative town,” Ryan said. “The amount of talent that is untapped is crazy to me. We have beautiful people here. That’s the purpose of this.”
The current exhibit will last until mid-May, when a second show will be launched for the summer.
Whether it’s the UNH art department, local practicing artisans or daily coffee drinkers, the downtown cafe will serve a larger scope. Breaking New Grounds is now a destination for more than your midday French Roast and blueberry scone. It’s a place to find a creative community and gain exposure.
“If it hits you, share it,” Ryan said. “We have wall space for you.”