Coffee and Art Come Together at Tyler

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When Kristin Mills and Matthew Craig graduated from Tyler with MFA’s in painting, they were looking for the perfect job. They wanted to work for themselves and still have enough time and energy to work on their creative projects.

“During our final semester, Matthew and I often took coffee breaks together. It was nice to get out of the studio/building that way,” Mills said. “Not to bad-mouth any other businesses, but we were honestly frustrated with the lack of good coffee on campus. Matthew would sometimes make the trek over to Mug Shots, but they were situated in an awkward area, and they eventually closed that location.”

With the frustration of trying to find good coffee close to campus and the abundance of food trucks around them, Mills and Craig began to joke about opening up their own coffee truck.

“We were both impressed with the amount of food trucks on campus, let alone the notion of the food truck industry growing nation-wide. Individually, we became fond of Yumtown and though they had something really going on…nearing the end of our semester we joked about starting a coffee truck,” Mills said. “At first it seemed absurd, but the more we thought/talked about it, along with the difficulty in finding a job post graduation, we thought that this could be a smart way to employ ourselves.”

In order to fund their new business venture, Mills and Craig ran a Kickstarter campaign where they proposed their idea: “Cloud Project is two-fold: it is a mobile coffee shop and it is also a conceptual piece. It is about the social role of the artist, as we, the artists in Cloud Project, are inviting visitors to interact with contemporary art is a sociable way.”

“We spent a lot of time researching and talking to other food truck owners. Food trucks are often retrofitted step vans and in order to get a truck fitted and plumbed the way we needed, it would have been very costly,” Mills said.

With the help of ebay, Craig found an espresso trailer called “Love-a-Latte” that was perfect for them.

“This was financially a much better deal for us, the only glitch being that it was out in Washington state,” Mills said. “So we had to drive it across the country. This seems like a fun adventure, and at times it was, but there were many bumps along the way. Eventually it made its way to Philly.”

After going through all the paperwork, fees, and finding a roaster, Cloud Coffee finally opened on January 15. When classes are in session, Cloud goes through about 65 pounds of coffee a week. Their Third-Wave brew comes from ReAnimator, a local roaster.

“Our Salty Artist is a huge hit, and our iced coffee is super popular, we typically cold brew. Our roasters, ReAnimator, are wonderful…their espresso blend makes for an amazing Americano!” Mills said.

Even with a new business, both Mills and Craig find time to create their art. For them, Cloud has become a way that they can better connect with their audience.

“We both actively reserve or create time for ourselves, as starting a business can be all-consuming,” Mills said. “We want to reach an audience in ways that are less expected than inside a gallery setting, and as a form of critique, the Cloud provides that. So there is a duality there.”

In addition to creating time for their own projects, both Mills and Craig will be working as adjunct professors this fall.

“So far, Matthew and I have worked well at figuring things out together. It’s continual problem solving…so I’m confident that we’ll figure this out too. One of the main reasons we started this project/business was so that we could do the things we want to do as artists. We cover each other so that we can do individual projects, residencies, teaching gigs, etc. While we will both be adjunct-teaching at Tyler in the fall, we’ll create a schedule that works for us – and we’ll definitely be hiring,” Mills said.

For more information about Cloud Coffee, visit http://cloudcoffeephilly.com/

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