Electric fans throw the hot summer air around while a record spins a song. Everything hums and swirls back and forth. On the walls, the coffee smell drifts along paintings, mugs, and wonky bookshelves filled with tomes about anything and everything. The details and colors make me feel like I am inside a Michel Gondry film.
With kid's music, poetry nights, story slams, and singer-songwriter evenings, Tin Comet has achieved something that was unthinkable for East 10th Street -- it has provided a family environment for people to congregate and share their talents in an area that has been historically neglected and financially impoverished.
Autumn and Matt Davis opened Tin Comet Coffee less than a year ago at 2119 E. 10th St. It was funded with grass-cutting money and memories of the coffee shops of Indy's past (The Abbey & Lazy Daze Coffee House). "I remember -- it was the early '90s -- a friend told me to tune into a pirate radio station where poets were reading and you could only listen to it there (at The Abbey) ... I was blown away," says Matt.
He believes that the poverty and abandoned houses that plague the Near Eastside are symptomatic of people not feeling good about themselves. Matt believes being part of an art community where anybody can participate is empowering. "The coffeehouse belongs to the East Side ... In our society we elevate people like Lady Gaga, but here we elevate real people, because they can do those things too."
With the exception of the five years he spent in the navy, Matt has always been a Near Eastsider. His wife Autumn lived in several places before settling in Indiana, where she met Matt while taking classes at IUPUI. They both have a background in creative writing and photography, but Autumn is also a talented painter. Matt says, "We wanted to work doing something that would bring people and be fun."
It is evident that community is a big part of Tin Comet's charm. They have artists booked for their First Fridays until the summer of 2015, where I'm booked for June 2015, in fact, to show my paintings -- holla! I have been struggling with getting back into showing my paintings, mostly because of shyness, but Tin Comet's atmosphere feels like showing your artwork to your friends. Matt tells me that they will always have wall space for everybody. "The more the merrier," he says.
The atmosphere is very casual and unpretentious. When I ask what types of people show their work at Tin Comet, Matt tells me, "Very talented people come showcase their work ... we also have people who aren't that great."
And I think that is what makes this place as rich and genuine as Matt and Autumn are. They welcome and encourage anyone with a creative spirit, and they allow them to have a place at Tin Comet; whether it's by providing a space for me to gather with my artists friends to discuss our latest projects, hang our own coffee mugs on the wall -- or my artwork -- or just picking the record that is playing. There's a sense of belonging here.
The window is festooned with local music and art show posters, and toward the back of the coffeehouse you'll see a handwritten sign that reads "music from people who live nearby."
In folklore, comets have inspired everything from fear and dread to awe -- as they've been thought to be messages from gods and symbols of good things to come. Perhaps Tin Comet is a harbinger for us Near Eastsiders; things are about to change. Our neighborhoods are getting better, things are improving. Fountain Square, Mass Ave, and Broad Ripple are just a few of the cultural districts that have benefitted from businesses like Tin Comet becoming friendly environments for artists to flourish and make culture tangible. People want to be where art is happening. And as Beethoven and Proust would attest, coffee plays a big part in making it happen.