The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ vibrant neighborhoods – 317 words at a time.
John Vazquez is an artist with an unconventional canvas.
His purpose, though, is quite ordinary:
“To listen and talk and try to connect with someone,” Vazquez said.
Because, despite political polarization, inflation, pandemics and wars, Vazquez still believes in the beauty of humanity.
And because Vazquez believes, “change starts small.”
Small enough to squeeze onto a sticky note, where he sketches animated portraits of customers at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company during downtime on his barista shifts; hoping to break barriers between strangers.
“At the heart of a healthy business,” Vazquez said, “it’s always going to be people and connections and conversations.
“I knew that no matter how good our coffee was, it wouldn’t really matter if I didn’t have those connections with the people that came in every day.”
Vazquez finds creative freedom on tiny canvases.
Before sticky notes, he used coffee sleeves.
His first miniature sketch was inspired by romance. He was a student at IUPUI’s Herron School of Art and working at Starbucks. He’d hand his sweetheart a hot tea with detailed doodles of their inside jokes penciled on the sleeve.
“She has a whole chest of sleeves,” Vazquez said. “Over 100.”
When he started at Calvin Fletcher’s in January 2021, he etched on their coffee sleeves too, until they switched to textured, patterned ones. He then found the sticky notes.
Smaller canvases offer limitations, Vazquez says, but also opportunities.
With art, “it makes it easier to focus on the subject.” With people, it makes it easier to break the ice; to discover that the guy who always wears the same brown fedora is a mechanical engineer interested in interior design, and the woman who always orders the iced oat matcha latte – with vanilla – is a web developer with a passion for vegan food.
“People are cool,” Vazquez said, “even the ones you don’t know.”
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