Beyond just coffee: The Motley celebrates student artists

Student artisan products, including beaded necklaces, earrings, and charms are presented on a wooden table in front of a brick wall in the Motley.
(Anna Choi • The Student Life)

 

Tucked inside Seal Court lies a hub of student caffeination and community: the Motley Coffeehouse. Known for its Matcha-Cha-Chas and calming communal atmosphere, the Motley is a center for student camaraderie at Scripps College. 

Student art dots the exposed brick walls, making the space feel authentic and storied. The coffee house has been a long time staple in the Scripps community, with photo albums dating back to the 1970s. It is treasured by the Scripps student body as a place of collaboration. 

The Sept. 15 Motley opening was a way for student artisans to be placed front and center. This is the first time the Motley will be open for the entire academic year since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. The aptly titled “Mot Gala” celebration featured a live band playing outside while the stage inside was filled with items for sale. Students flocked toward the opportunity to purchase handmade jewelry, crochet items, mugs, sweatshirts and more. 

The night was wildly successful for many, especially the artists. Ceramicist Kasey Bumgardner SC ’23 said she sold nearly half of her pieces during the opening alone. 

The Motley acts as a gallery space for various artists of different media. Playing into the theme of being a student-run business, the Motley allows student artists to use the space as a pedestal for selling and showcasing. Without charging commission, it encourages small student businesses while also contributing to the warm atmosphere. 

“I like that The Motley is not just like a coffee place or a café,” Bumgardner said. “It’s a space to meet with friends and look at and appreciate student artwork.” 

Kasey Bumgardner SC ’23

Not all of the art in the Motley is for sale, however. Artists have the option to either sell their work or simply display it. Whether for sale or not, art filling the tables and walls contributes to a sense of communal identity. 

“I like that The Motley is not just like a coffee place or a café,” Bumgardner said. “It’s a space to meet with friends and look at and appreciate student artwork.” 

As a crochet artist, Sylvie Kromer SC ’25 also appreciates the Motley’s unique setup. 

“It seems like a cool way to have students experience each other’s art,” she said. 

Through the showing of art, students can meet fellow artists and connect over an appreciation of crafts. The art presented creates a warm, welcoming and accepting space, much like a home away from home.

When Bumgardner decided to sell her work at the Motley, she was pleased not to lose any money on commission fees like she did from third party websites. Previously having sold on Etsy, she prefers selling at the Motley because it eliminates shipping costs and other fees.

“Now that this is how I sell my art, all the profits go towards Nobody Fails at Scripps and the Claremont Student Worker Alliance,” Bumgardner said. 

There was a push at the opening of the Motley last semester to include more student art, according to the Facilities Manager Liz Messinger SC ’23.

“It’s a great way to support our peers,” Messinger said. “I also think that since more people picked up crafting skills over COVID, there was a new wave of artists.”

Her favorite thing about the Motley is the air of collaboration that has echoed throughout the space since she’s been a student. It has always been a central meeting place where open mic nights would happen. 

“I’ve always been a friend of the Motley, even though I only started working here this year,” she said.

Kromer also attested to the simplicity of selling at the Motley. Wanting to make some extra money while in college, she found the process of selling at the Motley to be very easy.

“I just brought all my products on opening day,” Kromer said. “They even had little cards with my Venmo and Instagram handles on them too.”

This accessibility is a testament to the overall culture of the Motley Coffeehouse. Its staff are all dedicated to fostering a sense of community within the Scripps campus, including how they involve student artists. 

Messinger spoke to her time working at the Motley as a deeply rewarding experience.

“I love my co-workers, but my favorite part about working here is being able to lay out tangible work and then see it happen,” she said. “It’s so satisfying to see the Motley go from the state it was in before we opened everything up to being filled with people.” 

For Messinger, the Motley is a space that attests to how much everyone in the Scripps community cares about each other. From the little doodles on to-go cups to the handwritten whiteboard displays, it feels like a place where everything is a labor of love. 

For more information about selling or displaying art at the Motley, check out their Instagram @motleycoffee

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