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Coffee cup muses on display at Ethan Versh `27’s Smith Gallery expo

Ethan Versh `27 sits amidst the coffee cup cornucopia in his “Cupolitan” Smith Gallery show. (Brisa Zielina)

Ethan Versh `27 had been doodling on his coffee cup in class when he got an email about Smith Gallery applications — it was a sign. His muse, the coffee cup, in its “fullest, final form,” currently sits on display in the middle of the Edith Renfrow Smith `27 Gallery in a clear glass box. 

Versh found beauty in the ordinary when choosing his beloved coffee cups as artistic inspiration. “I think it’s cool when you can take something kind of random or out of the blue and flip it into something,” he said. There’s a lot of cool stuff around us daily, you just have to look.” He said he draws inspiration from every aspect of his life.

When you walk into the gallery, the first thing you see is a calendar of March with the dates made up of coffee lids. 13 of these are spray painted red to mark the days his show will be up.

As you continue to walk in, you will see his map of Manhattan. Upside-down cups decorated with colorful stickers map out the subway system, and a neon green vinyl square marks Central Park. 

A map of Manhattan — titled “Metro Transport Authority Map of Manhattan, New York” — made of coffee cups can be found in Ethan Versh `27’s Smith Gallery show “Cupolitan.” (Brisa Zielina)

However, this piece is not without controversy. “I’ve gotten some heat from someone from Manhattan about doing a map of Manhattan,” said Versh, a New Jersey native. “I don’t think you can really gatekeep places.” 

Next to the map of Manhattan is a large sketch of a Pedal Grinnell bike made up of exactly 66 coffee sleeves.  Versh — who admitted that bicycles comprise a large part of his life cycle — works with his brother, Peter Versh `25 at Pedal Grinnell. He spends most of his time sporting his Airpod Max’s and cargo pants, fixing up bikes he might be sketching for future works.

Ethan Versh `27’s “Ride Pedal Grinnell” is a 35 in. by 65 in. bike sketch on 66 coffee sleeves. (Brisa Zielina)

Another wall of the gallery is covered by sets of three-piece sketches, each part on its own coffee sleeve. The sets each feature their own respective subject matter — one, for example, being a rendering of “Peanuts” characters. 

Versh’s original coffee cup doodle can also be found at the gallery as a coffee sleeve featuring baseball players. When asked why he chose baseball players, he responded, “I played baseball when I was very young. It wasn’t really a big part of who I was, but it was just fun to draw.”

Ethan Versh `27’s first coffee sleeve sketches were of baseball players, done in his tutorial class. (Brisa Zielina)

He said he hopes people enjoy it. According to him, it was “a lot of fun to put together.” 

Versh’s exhibit will be on display in the Smith Gallery until March 16.

Ethan Versh `27 looks up at his “Flower 1,” “Flower 2” and “Flower 3” pieces, made up of 57 coffee cups total. (Brisa Zielina)
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About the Contributors
Eliza Cline, Media and Communications Editor
Eliza is a first-year intended political science and religious studies double major and policy studies concentrator from Lincoln, Nebraska. She enjoys writing, watching documentaries, traveling, and visual art.
Brisa Zielina, Staff Photographer
Brisa Zielina is a first year and an aspiring Theater major with a concentration in American Studies from Los Angeles, California. She loves singing and acting and uses the word “slay” way too often. When she’s not slaying the day, she’s probably in rehearsal or studying on the third floor of the HSSC. If you see her around campus, say howdy, she’s always happy to make new friends!
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