The Prized Coffee

by Bri Kilroy • photography by Richelle Kimble

There are 1,453 entries in ArtPrize Eight being displayed at 170 venues among the downtown neighborhoods, Rumsey Street and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. ArtPrize is sure to reveal dynamic and contrasting likes, dislikes, opinions, applauds and so on as it encourages debate and challenges what we know as artistic language. One thing we can agree on as Grand Rapids kicks off the largest international art competition in the world is we’re going to need coffee!

Answering that need is Ferris Coffee & Nut (227 Winter Ave. NW). The start of a three-year partnership between ArtPrize and Ferris Coffee not only plays a strong role in the support of ArtPrize but also brews us the Official Coffee of ArtPrize 2016.

“ArtPrize is honored [by the partnership],” Todd Herring, ArtPrize’s creative and communications director, said. “Ferris is local and is gaining its ground as a roaster. It’s truly a home-grown success story, a lot like ArtPrize is.”

Herring explains that ArtPrize offers a break from everyday activity similar to the reviving pause a simple “coffee break” adds to one’s day. Blending with the petite pause is Ferris Coffee’s creation, featuring two contrasting flavor choices of the Ethiopian coffee, Ayehu, to represent the public and juror’s contrasting responses during ArtPrize: a light roast, highlighting fruit and floral characteristics, and a dark roast, summoning added notes of bittersweet chocolate to the drink.

“They’re two very distinct and different flavors that, when combined, you get a multitude of flavors within the flavor spectrum,” Herring said of Ayehu. “Ferris jumped at the challenge of seeing if two different roasts would work together.”

The caffeinated brew guides the sipper out of their comfort zone to explore the flavors of coffee. It’s a complementing companion to ArtPrize Eight’s theme, which uses patterns and combinations to represent creative possibilities and the opportunity to make something new.

“The fact that Ferris Coffee is the official coffee sponsor paired with National Day of Coffee, which falls within ArtPrize, lends itself to a public throwdown.” –Hannah Saylor

The official ArtPrize coffee is available for purchase at the ArtPrize HUB HQ (41 Sheldon Blvd. SE) and both Ferris Coffee storefronts. (You read right; Ferris Coffee’s second storefront opens this month. Check it out at 40 Pearl St. NW). Select retailers are also carrying the coffee during the 19 days of ArtPrize. If it’s too late in the day for coffee or if your tastes lean toward a beer brew, Founders’ Pale Joe is brewed with a similar Ethiopian coffee bean and is serving as this year’s official beer of ArtPrize.

Latte Art Throwdown coordinator Hannah Saylor with a cup of latte art at Ferris Coffee & Nut.

Further merging creation and caffeine, Ferris Coffee presents its first Latte Art Throwdown at Rosa Parks Circle, September 29.  Coffee professionals are taking the stage to show their artistic talent when working with the mediums of milk and espresso to create a design that impresses the judges and public the same way an ArtPrize entry would.

“Having a latte art throwdown in Rosa Parks Circle has been something we’ve been dreaming about since we opened our café,” Hannah Saylor, Latte Art Throwdown event coordinator, said. “The fact that Ferris Coffee is the official coffee sponsor paired with National Day of Coffee, which falls within ArtPrize, lends itself to a public throwdown.”

The throwdown features a series of one-on-one rounds that lead to a face-off against the two top competitors in the event. The throwdown is streamed live on a big screen so visitors can get a closer look at the milky masterpieces. The presence of the Ferris Coffee Truck and musical entertainment by local DJ Adrian Butler keeps the energy high at this exciting and new event. Baristas and other coffee professionals interested in competing and earning bragging rights for their coffee shop and themselves can sign up at

When you’re commuting through downtown Grand Rapids, opportunities for an agenda’s surrender are everywhere during ArtPrize. The partnership with Ferris Coffee awakens the musing mind to experiences in art and tastes that inspire you to spend a little more time outside your comfort zone. Stay updated at and connect with Ferris Coffee and products at

Details on Latte Art Throwdown

  • Where: Rosa Parks Circle, 135 Monroe Center St. NW
  • When: September 29, 7-10 p.m. (first pour begins at 8 p.m.)
  • Cost: Free
  • Why: There’s a latte reasons.


Bri Kilroy is a Grand Valley and AmeriCorps alumna who learned to type through vigorous Mavis Beacon trainings. She also passes as an artist, illustrator and author of this bio.


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