Common Grounds breaks way in its mission to promote local artists of color


Courtesy of Michele Costa

Art piece Michele Costa donated to Common Grounds.

By Jacob Baker

Fiber artist and designer Michele Costa (Courtesy of Michele Costa)

DeKALB Fiber artist and designer Michele Costa donated an art piece in the form of a multi-colored crocheted bike to the Common Grounds Coffee shop. The bike will serve as a way to attract more local artists of color so they may display their art outside the shop in the future.   

Since Common Grounds, 131 E. Lincoln Highway, moved its location around two years ago, owner and director Jeff Foster has carried his coffee shop with an important mission to spotlight artists of color, Foster said. 

“Once we start having some youth coming to the shop, it would be great if they could contribute to [visual art outside the shop],” Foster said. “Maybe something as simple as pieces attached to the bike or something along the lines of the theme of ‘ride to success’ came to mind,” Foster said. 

Common Grounds looks to empower young voices to bring forth fresh ideas through a vibrant community hub to spark inspiration, engagement and potential collaboration, according to the Common Grounds website. 

The art installation from Costa to the coffee shop came as a surprise, because her  donation was placed while Foster was away from the shop. Costa and Foster are old friends and a visual piece of art outside the shop was a good step to attract more artists to their art outside the shop, Foster said.. 

“I knew I wanted to do a bike for Common Grounds, and that idea was planted well over a year ago,” Costa said. “I knew the shop was near campus and a lot of people ride bikes around there and I thought it would be a very relatable installation. I wanted this bike to originally be a pride bike so that’s what the rainbow inspiration came from.” 

Costa has been doing fiber art that consists of yarn and fabric for over 10 years now. She has installed art around the country, from DeKalb to New York, Costa said. Until the pandemic hit, Costa designed for yarn companies and ended up in several magazines.  

Red Heart Yarn and Yarnspirations provided Costa with the materials for the bike with the goal of supporting art in the community, Costa said. The crocheting process consisted of sketching ideas, sampling yarn and sourcing materials. Two community members even donated two bikes to help with the art installation. One was used in the current installation and the other will be saved for a future installation for Common Grounds that is scheduled for the spring. 

The process in creating the bike started with covering the bike in colored electrical tape, Costa said. After that, Costa said she started the crochet process that took two and a half months for the final product. 

At the root of Common Grounds’ mission behind empowering young artists of color is the reason why Costa chose to display art at the shop with more installations coming in the future, Costa said. 

“Jeff has really created not just a safe space, but an inclusive and cultivating space,” Costa said. “It’s breathing those breaths of life into art and into community. Doing that, I wanted to support that with my own art and in a smalltown like DeKalb, the importance of a place like Common Grounds can’t be spoken about enough.”