On Friday, November 15, 2019, Starbucks opened their sixth Reserve Roastery. Starbucks also has other reserves in New York, Milan, Shanghai, Tokyo, and the first in the company’s hometown of Seattle. Known as the “World’s Largest Starbucks” and located on North Michigan Ave along the Magnificent Mile, the 43,000 square foot Chicago store is quite a sight to see with visitors and customers waiting 30 to 60 minutes to be a part of this coffee experience.
At Starbucks, seeing the well-known logo “The-Siren” is part of the experience. Starbucks made great efforts connecting to local talent and minority artists when building this new location. One local artist was given the task to paint The-Siren.” Located on the fourth floor and hanging above the bar, African American artist David Anthony Geary discussed his art and the experience of having his work seen daily by thousands in the “World’s Largest Starbucks.”
David was born and raised on the East Side of Chicago in the South Shore neighborhood, where he hung out at Rainbow Beach. He started his career at Xavier University in New Orleans as Biology and Pre-Med major with a focus on psychology. He changed his major in hopes of becoming a working artist, photographer and painter.
Shera Strange (S.S.): What does art mean to you?
David Anthony Geary (D.A.G.): I breathe it. It is everything. It is the recording of history and culture. It is making permanent in some way the things that are familiar and sometimes making an everyday item permanent.
S.S.: What does your artwork say?
D.A.G.: I think it asks more than it says. The largest chunk of my work is portrait based. I tend to paint people I know and love or people I have come to know and love in some capacity. I think what my work asks more than anything is who deserves to be monumentalized? I tell their stories.
S.S.: What are your biggest Influences?
D.A.G.: Beauty-energetically, physically, and emotionally. All forms of the experience influence me. Much of my work is sparked by the conversations I have.
S.S.: What do you like most about being an Artist?
D.A.G.: I own my own time. I love the ability to connect and express. I draw on the human connection and interaction for the work. It becomes this cycle of giving and receiving. That has become my life.
S.S.: How do you navigate the Art World?
D.A.G.: I have to approach everything from a perspective of abundance. I share the information. I share the opportunity. I feel like it always comes back to me.
S.S.: How did you connect with Starbucks?
D.A.G.: A photographer friend of mine had just moved out of town and was supposed to do this project for Starbucks but was unavailable. He gave them my information. I completed that project for Starbucks in 2010. Five years later, I received a message from the store designer that I worked with on that project. She knew me as a photographer but not as a painter. She told me that Starbucks wanted to do a community-based project with local artists, specifically on the South Side of Chicago. They were building a Starbucks in Englewood and were looking for painters. I gave her a list of artists, and she handed the list to the new store designer. They saw my work loved it. They called me and asked me to make something for the store in Englewood. A few years after that, they wanted an interpretation of the “The-Siren” for a very special Starbucks and asked me if I was interested in painting “The-Siren”? They saw my “Great Migration Series” and loved the way I married my line work with the surface. I spent 3-4 weeks designing and another three weeks creating it on location. The design needed to be completed and approved before I could touch the wall. It was such a great experience. I spent 2 or 3 hours every other day for about three weeks, working with her on-site so it would be available for their partners to see it before the grand opening.
S.S.: Where can we find your work in Chicago?
D.A.G.: Outside of the Starbuck Project, all of my work is on the South Side of Chicago. The Starbucks on Michigan Ave and in Englewood are my corporate projects. My two landmark projects consist of the commemoration of the 35th Street Suspension Pedestrian Bridge in Bronzeville and the only suspension bridge in Illinois. Currently I have an exhibition at the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy, on American Identity, and two murals, The K.L.E.O. Mural and K.L.E.O. Residents Mural, on Garfield and Michigan. In addition, I sell my smaller works on paper along with some of my experimental wearables such as jewelry, some apparel and accessories monthly at Hyde Park Handmade. It is the one marketplace that I utilize and the least expensive place to buy my work. I also expect to do a show in Spring 2020.
You can find out more about Anthony’s work by going to www.davidanthonyart.com . You can also find him on social media @davidanthonyart!
-Shera Strange, Contributing Writer