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New exhibition in new London Borough of Culture: Waltham Forest!

Councillor Ahsan Khan from Waltham Forest, Barrista Ricardo from Bru Coffee and Gelato and Artist James Gray from Cafe Art.

Ahsan Khan, Portfolio Lead Member- Libraries, Arts and Culture, Waltham Forest; Ricardo, Bru; James Gray, Cafe Art, Sarah Caldwell-Watson, Cafe Art; Paul Ryan Cafe Art and Sameera, Bru Coffee and Gelato.

Café Art arrived this week in Waltham Forest with an exhibition in Bru Coffee and gelato, just as the borough has been announced as the first London Borough of Culture. (more about the award here)

Like all of the paintings we hang, all are for sale to the public with 80% of the sale price going to the artists and 20% back into Cafe Art to buy new frames.

James Gray is a former rough sleeper and one of the exhibiting artists who attended the launch event, along with Waltham Forest councillor Ahsan Khan and members of the Bru team early this week.

“I was sleeping rough on and off for three years” he says adding that he was living near Victoria Station. He joined an art therapy class run by a local homeless charity at that time. James initially was rehoused in a hostel and later transitioned to his own flat to rent. He says it takes a few years to get over the transformation of living inside again after being homeless. “Homelessness always leaves a scar, so you really have to find something to motivate you – something you believe in.”

James is now self employed and Café Art employ him on a part time basis to hang art in cafes. He also earns money by selling his own art in the cafes with Café Art and in solo exhibitions. As well as original paintings and drawings James recently has been concentrating more on trying to sell prints (reproductions) of his art, which he says are proving very popular.

Bru coffee shop approached Café Art when they heard about the programme to exhibit art by homeless people. Bru’s managing partner Sameera said: “We’re really excited about this. Café Art empowers rough sleepers to make something of themselves and reintegrate into society, this very much resonates with Bru’s ethos of bringing real benefit to our community whilst serving arguably the best coffee and most luxurious hand made gelato around. It also fits in with our vision to help bring culture to the first borough of culture”

Ahsan Khan, recently re-elected Labour councillor for Waltham Forest, spoke about the importance of being the first Borough of Culture. He said; “It’s an opportunity to promote arts and culture, which is sometimes seen as a middle class hobby, right across different social classes. This really does transcend boundaries because the Borough of Culture Award allows us to really take this into every home, into every community right across the borough. It really does have the power to bring people together, to break down barriers, to have real longterm economic, social and educational benefits. One of the key things within our bid was bringing people together through music, poetry and art.”

Speaking about the issue of homelessness councillor Khan said: “Homelessness is on the rise and the fact that Café Art is providing a platform for homeless people to showcase their talents is an excellent initiative; if by having art displayed in cafes people can enjoy their cake and latte and also get to see some excellent artwork and have the opportunity to purchase that artwork I think that’s a win-win for everyone involved. So a lot of credit must go to Café Art and Bru Coffee and gelato for collaborating on this excellent initiative and I’m really just here as a symbol of support.”

Visit Bru Coffee and gelato and vote for your favourite Cafe Art painting! Bru are asking people to vote on their favourite painting, with a chance to win it, or a similar painting by the same artist (if it has not sold yet as all paintings are for sale). We will be changing the art every three months and we hope to put up art by local Waltham Forest artists soon.


Bru Coffee and Gelato

How to get there and what to do! Bru Coffee and Gelato, 223 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9PP, is literally 2 minutes walk from Walthamstow Central Station at the end of the Victoria line and on the London Overground. Why not make a day of it? Did you know that not only does Walthamstow have a beautiful village centre, but hosts the longest outdoor market in Europe? Why not visit the exhibition and see more of the London Borough of Culture at the same time?

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