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Everything connects to ideas

The process of curation for shows at Ipso Gallery usually starts with an idea or a concept, if not an artist/s we’re really curious about. Then comes the process of determining if it will be a solo, two-person, three-person, or group show. We often think about how we can involve artists in different layers of the show (some good examples below) and how we can have the Ipso patrons participate in the larger concept of the show. Every show at Ipso Gallery is a celebration of an idea and everything that grows from it. It lifts up the process as much as the final result.

White Ribbon
Ipso Gallery came about because of Fresh Produce’s love for art and creativity. There was no real strategy at the time for what it’d be or grow into. The team knew that they wanted a space to showcase creative ideas and be surrounded by art. Most Ipso exhibitions are inspired by people and concepts we love. Last August, the Fresh Produce team entered artworks (and cookies) to compete at the arts pavilion at the Sioux Empire Fair. We loved the idea of how art is embedded into something people don’t necessarily associate with “capital-A” Art. White Ribbon was a celebration of art-making, however it presents itself. So we made up a bunch of categories artists could enter works into, and every artist received a white ribbon for being a part of the show. But, of course, we also had a few special ribbons and a pie contest. White Ribbon was one of our most heavily themed shows, and it was all coordinated by our Famous interns–including the cotton candy and popcorn machines.

Cake Parade
Memory, folk traditions, and our love for cake have manifested themselves in different ways at Ipso. The team at Fresh Produce and Ipso who’ve grown up in rural South Dakota have fond memories of attending county fair and church events that centered around eating a variety of cakes followed by a chance to take home a whole cake. We tried to think of a concept that would capture these memories and present it as an Ipso show. We loved the idea of capturing an art practice through baking. Baking is process-heavy and rooted in precision. It also embodies different textures and tastes, but somehow baking is as fluid of a practice as an artist’s. It took us a few years to land on the logistics of what became Cake Parade in November 2018. We paired up five bakers and five artists to meet up and share their passion for art and cake making. This resulted in five cakes to share with patrons on opening night, five original works of art inspired by the artist-baker pairing, and five cakes to take home.

Ka-Chunk was our most ambitious show to date. We wanted to highlight that the act of collecting art can start in a small way. During Ka-Chunk’s opening, we had nearly 350 original artworks share the Ipso floor for a one night only art vending event. We invited four regional artists to make their artistic interpretation of a vending machine that could house multiple 4×4″ artworks. No other stipulations. The smaller works were made by 30+ artists, with every artist contributing ten pieces each for the artist-made machines. Patrons were invited to take home their original artworks with the purchase of a $5 token. All works sold within 45 minutes of the opening.

Mystic October
Not too long ago, we added a fifth show to our annual line-up of exhibitions. Our annual Mystic October series might be the only one that’s themed, in that it recognizes bodies of work by an artist that invites us to explore its mystical, mysterious qualities a little deeper. These works often conjure feelings of interacting with the unfamiliar — in process, practice, medium, or subject matter. Our first two Mystic October shows presented photographs by Jim Groth (Bertha), and sculptural assemblages by John Banasiak (Realia).

That’s Interesting
For Ipso Gallery, the beauty in interacting with art is the opportunity, in equal measure, to see an artist’s process and practice, and the final artwork. This idea has led Ipso to curate a number of shows that dive into process. One of these was That’s Interesting, in the winter of 2016. The show opened during a season where people in the region seek hermitage in their homes, often times feeling a lull in “inspiration” or even the outside stimuli needed to make art. That’s Interesting brought together a dozen individuals and their collections of things that inspired them in different ways as writers, artists, musicians, collectors, archivists, and educators. It was an exercise in creative reverse engineering, visually articulating an artist’s early process and putting it on display.

[August Ipso Shows]
Ipso usually presents four to five shows every year. The ones in August are a little bit more special as we get to see the Fresh Produce summer interns concept, design, and write copy for all the promotional materials associated with Ipso. It becomes a celebration of the work they’ve done through the internship as well as an opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the culture of Fresh Produce and Ipso Gallery. Like most projects, the Famous crew comes up with the creative direction for art and copy for the August Ipso show, giving them room to decide on the plan for the opening reception, including food, interactive materials, other collateral, and merch. They also get a chance to work closely with local and regional artists, and get a peek at a different creative process than their own.

Merch Tent
The act of collaboration is at the heart of a lot of Ipso shows. Merch Tent was an amalgamation of the team’s interests in the local music and art scenes at the time. This show brought together 10 artists and 10 musicians/bands to produce a limited run vinyl record called Sounds of the Colony. This project gave us a chance to be facilitators in creating a special vinyl as well as a series of ten custom screenprinted covers pulled by artists. We love the idea of sharing what we love and things we’re passionate about — something we believe leads to people having genuine, authentic experiences with Ipso.

Drawntown Sioux Falls
DrawnTown Sioux Falls was a monthly gathering of creative minds before it became the root idea for an Ipso show. It started with a few creatives with pencils in a park and grew to include all types of visual arts, audio production, and creative writing. Ipso hosted an exhibition of works created at eight DrTSF events for this 2010 show. The space was transformed into a sketchpad of thoughts, doodles, and sounds. The idea of creatives casually gathering and making work has now grown into events like AIGA South Dakota’s Drink & Draw.

Exploring Place and Space / Familiar and Unfamiliar

Magical Adventure is a ten-year celebration of Ipso Gallery, but it’s also a celebration of the gallery’s decade long artist residencies of Liz Heeren and Mary Groth. This powerhouse mother-daughter duo have called the two studios in the downtown art space at Fresh Produce their home since Ipso opened its doors in the spring of 2009. It seems apt that the crew at Fresh Produce (myself included) saw them as a perfect pairing to bring back as the tenth anniversary show.

Mary Groth and Liz Heeren have a long shared history as two women artists living in South Dakota, as two artists who share a similar space and community, and as a mother and daughter. But with these shared stories and experiences, it’s interesting to see how uniquely different they are as artists.

Mary grew up in Aberdeen, South Dakota, spending a number of years there raising her two children, painting, and working as an artist through it all. Her experiences in rural South Dakota, her Scandinavian heritage, and motherhood have influenced her work since the beginning of her career. Best known for her prairie scenes, Mary has a signature style of capturing tender moments of care and friendship — encapsulating a sense of place and its people.

Liz grew up in Aberdeen, South Dakota, spending a number of years pursuing art education outside the state, then coming back to raise a family. She has painted and worked as an artist and art educator through it all. Her experiences in studying biology and art, and motherhood have influenced her work. Best known for her seamless combination of abstractions and realist elements, Liz has a signature style of capturing the innate beauty in colors and objects — encapsulating a sense of space and time within it.

Drawing influence from life and personal experiences isn’t always the familiar thing to do. As artists, it can often be a way to navigate the unfamiliar of what life throws at you. Liz and Mary use their medium as a tool of investigation, diligently exploring whatever ideas pique their interests.

The significance of art by women artists is often diminished when it represents motherhood, mothering bodies/action, womanhood, softness, or delicate/emotional environments. The case for women practicing more craft-based mediums, folk, or indigenous arts seem to be in the same realm. This terrain is something both Liz and Mary travel, out of their own volition or through implied/imposed choice.

Since the beginning of their art practices, Mary and Liz have been made acutely aware of their subject matter and the well of influence they draw from.

Mary is an artist who represented life on the prairie, often times highlighting rural family life and relationships between women. There’s a softness to her work, in execution/physicality but also in the idea of expressing these deeper delicate relationships based on lineage, heritage, and nature. Her bodies of work, in the 40-some years she has actively been an artist and mother, have a very strong element of storytelling that draws in a range of viewers. She portrays stories of resilience in her works, and also exemplifies that story herself by being a full-time artist living in South Dakota.

Mary’s practice can be perceived as one of a documentarian. She borrows from her lived experience, as well as from shared stories of the prairie. There is something extremely distinctive in the way she presents these lived/shared scenes — there’s patience, tenderness, and care in her works. There’s a sense of slowing down and enjoying those special, emotional moments. Her artistic style strongly contributes to communicating the time and place of these stories, the passage of these moments — things that are fleeting — and encouraging viewers to take time soaking in our own experiences.

Liz has exhibited at a number of spaces and institutes, but in this instance it’s interesting to see the link between her work from her first Ipso Gallery showing and her current series at Magical Adventure ten years on. When looking back at the inaugural Ipso exhibition, Liz says that it seemed like a preemptive, unconscious lean towards becoming a mother to a boy extremely inventive and curious about outer space. These older works started her initial investigation into a multiverse, where spaces collapsed showcasing elements from this world and beyond.

She draws heavily from nature and interactions of elements around us — both rooted in her love for biology, and science as a whole. Her previous works seem to feature more technical subjects–things that were three-dimensional and contoured–but it evolved into more flat graphics which now have taken the form of otherworldly, multi-dimensional abstracted landscapes. These newer works express a sense of ongoing investigation. Her abstractions show the idea in process, challenging the perception of fact and fiction. There’s a search to sync up with the unfamiliar. In this case, unfamiliar being the desire to understand the everyday thought-process and interests of an eight-year-old.

Drawing from life and the everyday manifests itself in so many different ways. Either as stories and moments passed on through generations, or through untold experiences and unique connections. Artists Mary Groth and Liz Heeren delve in human connection, either through their own lives or a collective experience. They are storytellers and resilient explorers/documentarians of the human experience, and they use strong technical, artistic vision to present these moments in very realistic, sometimes mystical, and abstract ways.

This whole body of work that I’m working on is an effort to move into the state of mind that I observe in my son. I feel like this has been lost (in me) through years of education and a practical lifestyle. He’s so scientifically aware and capable of articulating very complex scientific ideas. I see him flip that into fiction very quickly, without any effort to disguise it. It’s that reversal of information and that ability in his mind to accept more than one reality of how these facts can work into his own creative concepts. I love that. I’m trying to find that space in my own work right now. This is my attempt to kind of play with understanding life from more than one perspective and to kind of pioneer in my very adult way. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my work right now, but I like this space.

My newest idea is called ‘Wonderment.’ It involves my grandson, which is a big new thing for me…to have grandchildren and I love it. So I’m trying to work him into this piece about his own imagination. Family kind of permeates everything I’ve done. It informs something in my art all along, somewhere. My work is very much about human connection. Always has been. So, my connection to my children, my friends, husbands has always shown up in my work. It’s always had an emotional content. My heart is in representing connections between human beings.

Magical Adventure is on view at Ipso Gallery till the end of January, 2020. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Famous: Class of 2019

What got you interested in the Famous internship?

Bailey Possail: I initially heard about Fresh Produce from my professors at South Dakota State University and officially met Ted at Student Day in the fall of my sophomore year. He pulled out his deck of Mystic Truths and I remember appreciating his drive to interact with each one of us and enthusiasm for what he does. From there, I made it my collegiate goal to intern at Fresh Produce.

Brianna Schreurs: I visited Fresh Produce during my freshman year at SDSU during Super ‘Cas. I remember feeling really inspired by the work around the office and art gallery after leaving. Some friends interned there that upcoming summer and told me about how it was a hands-on experience that made them go about thinking and working in a new way. They also got a lot of freedom in their internship. I just kept learning more about Fresh Produce and appreciated how thoughtful and creative they all were.

Tom Bates: I met Ted and Kyle my first year at SDSU during an internship fair and I heard about how good the Famous internship was. After touring the space and seeing the work they do, I was hooked and wanted to be part of the team.

What did you look forward to doing/learning?

Bailey: When I was first hired, I was daunted by the fact that I hadn’t developed a process for generating ideas. It often felt like a trade secret that just wouldn’t leak. But I knew Fresh Produce valued process and I looked forward to working closely with the creative team to get a taste of what they do to generate ideas.

Brianna: Learning how to form good creative ideas. I was always impressed by Fresh Produce’s work. I was interested in learning their process, understanding what motivated those ideas and being around people who dared to think big. Also, I was so excited to work with this Famous class. Bailey and Tom are so talented, and I looked forward to seeing the work we would do for our clients.

Tom: I was looking forward to learning about Fresh Produce’s creative process after Ted and I had a 30-minute conversation about it during my internship interview.

“Good work comes from a life well-lived. Having fun, doing things you enjoy affect your professional life and help it.” — Brianna Schreurs

What skills did you strengthen during your Famous internship?

Bailey: When Mike called to tell me I was hired as the copywriter intern, I maybe had a handful of silly stories and a few dozen ideas scribbled in the back of an old journal. Being a Famous intern taught me how to use my hobby by means of developing messaging for clients. Throughout the summer, I developed an awareness of different messaging tactics and strategies, and came to understand the importance of language and brand voice when writing for numerous audiences.

Brianna: Practicing my process was huge for me this summer. Usually, my ideas didn’t form deliberately. This summer, I focused on being intentional and documenting what works to develop my ideas. I also built upon my communication skills. From talking to clients to the Fresh Produce crew and the Famous team, I had a lot of meetings. I had to learn how to be more precise with what I said!

Tom: My concept and idea generation leveled up when I started working at Fresh Produce. After going through the creative process a couple times, it became an important part in pushing and stretching ideas.

What was your big takeaway from the summer?

Bailey: My biggest takeaway from the summer was the importance of interacting with the community and engaging in networking opportunities. Being a Famous intern allows you to connect with Fresh Produce employees, Sioux Falls business owners and members of the art community, all of whom hold valuable insight and experience that will help you in the long run.

Brianna: Good work comes from a life well-lived. Having fun, doing things you enjoy affect your professional life and help it. Also, it’s OK to be stuck creatively.

Tom: Concepting ideas was the biggest takeaway. Observing what has already been done and being aware of the “hairball” is a really good lesson to learn as a creative.

Did the internship give you a better idea of what you want to do after graduation? If yes, can you elaborate.

Bailey: Absolutely! Before being hired, I was uncertain about a career path, and since running Famous, I now have the desire to continue expanding my skills in writing to turn my passion into a career.

Brianna: YES! Famous was terrific and confirmed I want to work in advertising. I especially want to work somewhere dedicated to authenticity and creativity in the same way I am.

Tom: Yes. Luckily for me, Fresh Produce is doing what I want to do and I was fortunate to have been hired on full-time. What I value most about working here is the freedom to be as creative as I want to be. The whole team creates an environment that nurtures creativity and challenges you to do your best work. It’s like what someone said in a recent meeting, “the comfort zone will kill you.” Everyday I feel uncomfortable, and in doing so I’m constantly growing and learning.

You three were on a roll with clients and projects — what project did you really enjoy working on?

Bailey: Each project had their own quirks but my favorite was helping Sioux Empire Wheels to Work build awareness of their car donation program. I think it’s safe to say that Brianna, Tom and I poured our hearts and souls into this project and were able to essentially redesign their brand identity. You can see in our work that we strived to give them the best we could because we each really wanted to see their program succeed in helping those in the community.

Brianna: Sioux Empire Wheels to Work was really fun, and it also felt necessary. We helped them form a brand and online presence. Our work with Cannonball Digital was excellent, as well. Tom and Bailey took charge and created unique branding for our client within two weeks—impressive! P&M Steel was fun because we got to think big, and we laughed a lot in the process of forming ideas to share with them to help them celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Tom: Cannonball Digital was a fun challenge. It was a brand identity project, which was right in my wheelhouse, but the challenging part of it was the short deadline. We pulled together three super strong art and messaging concepts in as little as TWO WEEKS. What I enjoyed most abut this project was the client presentation! It might be weird to say, but I enjoy presenting artwork to the client. Finishing a strong presentation and making the client inspired by the work you did is one of the most satisfying feelings.

What aspect/s of projects challenged you the most?

Bailey: Like you said, we were on a roll with clients and projects and I think the most challenging aspect of that was bringing three to four fresh ideas to the table for each client project. It challenged me to produce effective and meaningful ideas in a short amount of time and in the end strengthened my ability to think outside the box.

Brianna: Reaching out and getting new business was intimidating to me. I didn’t know exactly how to do it and thought it came down to a perfect formula to get a client to want to work with you. I had to learn to fight through nerves and enjoy just listening to potential clients!

Tom: For me, as a designer, the most challenging part of any project is the beginning. It’s scary to have a blank piece of paper looking you right in the face waiting for your brain to come up with something special. But once you get going on something good it becomes a snowball effect and you start producing great work.

What do you think of your Ipso Gallery experience? What was it like to help with an art exhibition? 

Bailey: The Ipso show (White Ribbon) was one of my favorite parts of the internship and an aspect I highlight on my resume. It’s a very unique opportunity

to interact with the community and bring people into the space to celebrate art. I had a ton of fun working with staff to produce promotional materials and organize the show.

Brianna: White Ribbon was the best part of the summer. The Famous crew worked super hard to bring the county fair to the Gourley Building. Some friends let us use a cotton candy machine, and we made handmade garland to get the atmosphere right. One of my favorite moments was when the ribbons came in the mail. The whole crew stopped their day to begin to look at how cool they were. It definitely got us pumped for the show.

Tom: The Ipso Gallery experience was fun. Seeing everyone during the opening of White Ribbon was a blast. It meant a lot to me to be part of that culture and knowing that it was one of the best shows Fresh Produce has ever had.

A quick piece of advice for future applicants?

Bailey: In your application, showcase your skills but also the things that represent the type of person you are and what interests you. One of my interview questions was to talk about a unique or unusual interest I have and as an interviewee, I wasn’t prepared for questions about my personal preferences, but that’s what I appreciate about Fresh Produce’s hiring process. They’re interested in things beyond your skillset, such as your interests and experiences.

Brianna: Show who you are in ways that go beyond the application and resume.

Tom: Please get out of your comfort zone. Experiment and challenge yourself. Specific advice for a designer who is applying for the Famous internship, show how you can come up with an idea and how you solved a problem with your work.

Anything else you want to add?

Bailey: Coordinate your lunches with your outfits. And by that, I mean don’t pack spaghetti the same day you’re wearing a white shirt.


Read more about Famous:

Living Unsettled in Barcelona

Last April, I took a card right from our deck of Mystic Truths and decided to make myself uncomfortable. Forced to serve a mandatory creative sabbatical away from the same unobstructed view of 6th and Main I’ve enjoyed since May 2011, I packed my bags for an overseas adventure to meet 20 strangers in Barcelona, Spain.

My goals were to disrupt my routine, immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture, and learn from every person and opportunity that crossed my path. To aid my pursuits, I structured my month through Unsettled, a new community of world travelers who organize experiential retreats for “those who embrace uncertainty and value meaningful human connection.”


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Week One: Fear is excitement without breath. #beunsettledbarcelonaapril

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As Americans, we absorb a fair amount of Spanish in our daily lives. Enough to fill me with the necessary confidence to spend a month in Spain. Unfortunately, no sooner than I booked my ticket did I realize that Catalan, not Spanish, is the official language of Barcelona. For context, Catalan actually has more in common with Italian and Portuguese than it does with Spanish. Alas, the language barrier didn’t inhibit my experience. In fact, spending an entire month in blissful ignorance of nearby inane conversations was practically therapeutic.

While I observed the casual, family-and-friends-first lifestyle enjoyed by most Barcelonans, my cultural experiences expanded every moment I spent with the Unsettled crew. In all, we represented four continents and over a dozen countries. I learned the value of liming in Trinidad and Tobago, laughing in India, and that lame in Saudi Arabia is pronounced “egg.”

More than anything, I’ll remember good it felt to share a meal with people you care about, a value observed at least five times a day by most Barcelonans. From desayuno (breakfast) to la cena (dinner), which typically doesn’t start until after 8:00 PM, we gathered around everything from tapas and paella to vermouth and local wine.


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Week Two: Daughter of Swords

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Structured Learning
In between meals, we managed to find time for learning. Early in our retreat, we took inventory of everyone’s expertise and interests in order to generate a community calendar. Our month was filled with workshops, panel discussions, and excursions designed by Unsettled employees and members of our retreat. Topics ranged from leadership and meditation to filmmaking and finding purpose.

Among the most unique, was exploring the Japanese concept of ikigai, which is your reason for being. In Okinawa, finding your ikigai means discovering your passion and purpose. It’s what one lives for. It’s talked about as openly as one might discuss their favorite baseball team or why they prefer tater tots over French fries. To find your ikigai, you explore the intersection of what you’re good at, what you can be paid for, what the world needs, and what you love. The exercise was a refreshing opportunity to find balance in what makes you uniquely you.

From climbing the steps of the Girona Cathedral (known to Game of Thrones fans as the Sept of Baelor) to buying a bell pepper at the grocery store, every moment in a new culture is an adventure. For those of us who could completely unplug from work, we chose to fill our time with new excursions at every turn.


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Week Three: Ikigai #beunsettledbarcelonaapril

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We learned to use tarot as a method of reflection. We immersed ourselves in local traffic laws by biking the streets of Barcelona. We engaged all of our senses during an art and dining t0ur that turned famed local works of art into a delectable four-course meal. What made each of these experiences special was sharing them with people who were also there for the first time. If you chose to go it alone, at the very least, you’d gather for a meal later in the day to share your highlights with others.

Preserving all of these memories was perhaps the biggest challenge of the entire month. Of course, we all travel with cameras in our pockets, but our phones also create a potential barrier to the world around us. To limit distractions, I deleted all social media apps from my phone, with the exception of Instagram (you know, to keep up with my travel companions). Even then, I limited myself to one post a week in which I had to choose ten photos that represented my experience. The result was as liberating as it sounds: I walked with my head up, people-watched for sport, and carried a notebook everywhere I went.

My photos and notes served as tools when I carved out time each day to write all of my thoughts and experiences in a journal. These daily doses of reflection provided presence and gratefulness for the day’s events. I’ve even semi-successfully carried the practice back home in a more abbreviated form through the Five Minute Journal. By choosing to disrupt my routine for a month, I invited new habits that have since positively impacted my personal and professional lives. At the very least, I have a few new magnets to stare at when I lift my gaze from 6th and Main.


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Week Four: Weather is really neat.

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Read more about the Fresh Produce Sabbatical:

“Brewing Independence is here!”

Brewing Independence, a coffee cart program for fourth and fifth graders at Susan B. Anthony Elementary in Sioux Falls officially started last fall, under the guidance of Katie Rick. Max, Tenley and Jordan from our Famous 2018 summer internship program were tasked with branding for Brewing Independence. We followed up with Katie about the program last month since its official launch in September, 2018.

Katie sat across from me at a local downtown coffee shop. We’d emailed a week before and decided we’d connect on Thursday, December 27. She offered to come down to the Fresh Produce office to meet me. It’s 9:00 a.m. after a long Christmas weekend, Katie was smiling wide as she shared the progress of Brewing Independence.

After researching various programs for her class over a couple of months, Katie found how impactful coffee cart programs have been at schools across the country. As a Special Ed teacher, she’s noticed that doing everyday activities that promote communication and coordination have helped her students. To start the coffee cart program, the school needed $500 in donations to buy a coffee machine and other supplies. Katie posted a fundraiser on Donor’s Choose, after the program was approved by the principal. “We didn’t think we’d reach our goal in 36 hours. It was amazing to see that people were excited by the idea,” she said.

Brewing Independence at Susan B. Anthony Elementary has fourth and fifth graders participating in a “coffee shop” environment where they take and fulfill coffee orders from teachers in the school. Every Friday, Ms. Katie’s class receives close to 30 orders. The children go through their assigned stations to make coffee using a Keurig machine according to the order slips.

“The kids are so pumped when Friday comes around. I’ve seen several of them sort of break out of their shell and become social in an environment they’d shy away from. All our teachers love it, too,” said Katie Rick, Special Ed Teacher at Susan B. Anthony Elementary in Sioux Falls, SD.

While keeping the task fairly simple, children are challenged to follow the right steps in order. They’re guided by color-coded stations and cues to fulfill the orders, which they place into a tray-cart specially made for Brewing Independence.

Fresh Produce had the privilege of helping with the branding and collateral of this brilliant coffee cart program, the first of its kind in the Sioux Falls school district. By incorporating a drawing of a coffee cup by one of Katie’s students, our intern team was able to come up with a logo for the program. They now use the logo on their coffee cart, cups, T-shirts, and aprons.

Katie said that Brewing Independence has other schools excited as well — Terry Redlin Elementary will be starting the program in two classrooms at the end of the month.