Why writers and artists should reconsider their patronage of Starbucks and Caffè Artigiano

Mona with BooksStarbucks and Caffè Artigiano: ubiquitous in Vancouver and two favourites among the many writers and artists I know. Yet that love and support is not reciprocated.

Historically, cafés have been the place where writers, artists, and revolutionary thinkers have gathered, where ideas have been born and nurtured, fuelled by passion and caffeine in equal measure. The café’s role as a creative cauldron is so pervasive that it is set in the popular imagination. Considering this symbiotic relationship, then, why is it that neither Starbucks nor Caffè Artigiano support local artists? Why are there no rotating art shows, no literary readings, no philosopher’s cafés?

I have always noticed that, while many of the independently owned cafés in and around Vancouver have regular art shows, have community boards or card racks for artists and others to post notices, and welcome writer gatherings, Starbucks and Artigiano do not. More appalling still, I recently found out  it is actually against their corporate policies to support artists and writers. This I discovered when I asked at both Starbucks and Artigiano if I could leave postcards promoting my novel, Baby Jane, and my upcoming non-fiction title, The Global Indie Author. I was told by the clerk at Artigiano that only corporate products or events could be advertised there; and while that was annoying, it was the response from Starbucks that really took the coffee cake: Starbucks will allow postings on its one tiny corkboard but only for charities and events where “there’s no expectation of making any money.” Seriously? Here’s a question for ya, you clueless suits: if I, as an artist or writer, am making any money, do you honestly think I’d be begging my local crack factory for a spot to put my postcards? If you do, you’re drinking way too much of your own product.

So, fellow writers and artists, the next time you’re at Starbucks or Caffè Artigiano looking to fuel your inspiration, remember that when your project is done the philistines you support will NOT be returning the favour.

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