By Emily Daniel
As a member of the Sewanee community, it is difficult not to have heard of Stirling’s Coffeehouse. Located on Georgia Avenue in an unmistakable, Victorian-style, yellow house, this quaint café has been both a campus hotspot and Sewanee icon for almost twenty years. The secret to Stirling’s success is really no mystery. With a menu that is fresh and flavorful and an ambiance that surpasses trite phrases such as “unique” and “charming,” Stirling’s provides a welcome respite from all the hustle and bustle of college life—and it does so with style. Just take a whiff of their blend of the day or a glance at the copious hand-drawn notices posted on the walls. It is obvious that the staff at Stirling’s takes great pride in preserving the shop’s distinctive atmosphere. One of the great ways they do this is by displaying the work of local artists.
For example, Stirling’s is currently showcasing the art of Sewanee student Rachel Jenkins (C’15), a junior philosophy major. Titled interpretations, the exhibit can be found in Stirling’s main dining area and contains sixteen pieces of Jenkins’s work. It encompasses a wide variety of mediums—everything from pencil to acrylics to screen-printing—and features artwork that is at once beautiful, thought-provoking, and topical, addressing a range of issues such as greed, poverty, identity, nature, and thought. Most of the art is also available for purchase.
However, the best part of interpretations is that it is accessible to everyone. There’s no cost to view the display, and no expansive knowledge of art is required to appreciate it. Not everyone knows what a screen-print or a woodblock is, but everyone can feel the joy and excitement exuded by the dancing woman in Untitled and the helplessness and despair emanating from the homeless man in Love is a Lifestyle. Even those who do not consider themselves “artsy” people can enjoy the skillful way Jenkins blends watercolors and acrylics in her Some Saints or marvel at the detail etched onto a tiny teabag in her bird sketch.
Furthermore, the theme of interpretations is something to which everyone at Sewanee can relate: everyone sees the world in a different way, and learning to reconcile all those different “interpretations” is a fundamental component of the liberal arts experience. This is clearly demonstrated by Jenkins in her introduction to the
exhibit, where she calls art “a process of unpacking my interpretation of the world, my experiences.”
She also emphasizes the importance of visual communication and admits that she herself is a visual thinker. “I often think more fluidly with a pencil in my hand, so art is a natural way for me to realize what I’m thinking or what I’ve interpreted in a situation or person,” she says.
Ultimately, whether you’re an art lover or not, it’s worth stopping by Stirling’s to check interpretations out. Jenkins’s artwork is moving and beautiful, and best of all, you can enjoy it while sipping something equally moving and beautiful—like an All Saints’ iced coffee. After all, who doesn’t like a little culture to complement a great cup of joe? Rachel Jenkins also does commissions, especially portraits. Anyone interested should speak with Katherine Evans or call 589-1963.