As light streams through the windows of the New Dorm café, Penny’s, students flip through pages of homework, laugh with the baristas, and admire the student displays on the wall.
Though established recently, Penny’s has quickly become a campus favorite for studying and chatting, and the student art on its walls — paintings and photographs — add a more personal touch, according to junior and Head Resident Assistant Annie Ingham.
“It’s just really cool that students get to be represented,” Ingham said. “I have friends that have their artwork up, and it’s really neat to admire their work and see it displayed because I wouldn’t get to otherwise.”
The nine pieces on Penny’s walls were created by sophomore Mary Caroline Whims, juniors Joanna Dell, Sienna Mckinley, Abigail Teska, and Emma Trist, and seniors Ethan Greb, Madeline Barry, Emilia Heider, and Nicole Ault. While some pieces, like Dell’s and Greb’s, are photography, others like Teska’s are colorful paintings, and Whims and Mckinley use watercolor, pen, and ink.
Sophomore and Creative Manager of Penny’s Caroline Hennekes said though the artwork is diverse, they all portray “meaningful and reflective, thought-provoking images.”
“Having art from various students is a small way to display the talents of our fellow students, and celebrate those treasures, opening the eyes of customers to beauty in ways in addition to a delightfully foamy latte,” Hennekes said in an email. “It also gives a sort of seriousness and uniqueness to Penny’s, that we are not only a coffee shop, but a gallery and a place to pursue and celebrate that beauty. It is a space to come be refreshed and reminded of the unique camaraderie of our pursuit as life-long seekers and learners — and sometimes you need other peers and artists to show that to you.”
Dell, whose photo “Hillsdale in Autumn” shows downtown Hillsdale in the fall, said it was an opportunity to represent the city.
“Especially with Penny’s just starting up, I thought it could be a really neat opportunity to just show a different side to campus,” Dell said. “I would just carry around my camera last fall and my backpack and … I would pull it out and shoot some film.”
Dell got into photography at a young age and started carrying a camera around when she was 11 or 12 years old. She said she probably first got into it because her sister was an art major with a photography emphasis, but now she does wedding photography as a job. She did her first wedding photoshoot when she was 15, and said she has especially enjoyed photographing Hillsdale couples.
“I wouldn’t say I really have a style,” Dell said. “I always have really tried to strike a balance between natural and genuine, like candids, but also showcasing very traditional poses.”
Dell said a lot of her passion with photography goes in hand with her love of traveling abroad.
“I went to Europe, and I only took my film camera,” Dell said. “When I sent those films in to be processed and I got them all back, that was really neat. I was just kind of able to relive all my travels.”
Some pieces explore the world beyond Hillsdale. Greb, whose photo “Weighed on Scales” is of Grand Teton Park in Wyoming, said he took the photo while driving through Wyoming with his dad and brother.
“We pulled off the side of the road just because it was so beautiful,” he said. “I wanted to capture it because, growing up in Michigan, you don’t really see snow on top of mountains in the middle of July. Seeing snow in the middle of July is kind of cool.”
He said he normally does portrait work in photography because he likes working with people and capturing their emotions, but he liked the opportunity to see the beauty of the West.
“I would just encourage people to go out West,” he said. “Because I grew up in the city and then went to the extreme other end of the spectrum, it just made the effect so much more greater.”
While Dell’s and Greb’s displays are focused on capturing beauty through a lens, Teska chose a different medium: oil painting. Teska said oil painting is her favorite because it is a “forgiving medium.” One memory that is special to her was painting a piece for her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“I wanted to make a painting that reminded him of something that was really important to him,” she said. “He served in World War II and I did a painting of his destroyer ship and gave it to him, and he felt that it was special.”
For the wall of Penny’s, she chose another nautical subject. Her painting of a lighthouse on a cliff, “A Beacon of Hope,” is her way of sharing her love of art with others, Teska said.
“I’m always inspired by lighthouses and water and seascapes,” Teska said. “I really like to show color and how color works in nature.”
Ingham said the displays brighten up the dullness of the gray walls, making Penny’s more welcoming to the campus.
“It just made it more of a home and a welcoming place,” Ingham said. “And it’s cool that students get to be represented.”