5 Questions With…Creature Comfort’s Director of Community & Culture, Matt Stevens
A brewer’s influence can expand well beyond the beer you buy in a taproom or the cans you see on shelves. Craft brewers today realize that their presence in their local communities can inspire positive change and network effects that help their neighbors and taproom regulars alike. Athens, GA-based Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is one of the breweries defining what it means for a brewer to be authentically connected to their community. In early 2018, Creature Comforts hired Matt Stevens to be their Community and Culture Director; his job description includes running their Get Comfortable and Get Artistic charity initiatives.
As Stevens puts it, these charitable campaigns allow Creature Comforts to “walk our talk” by providing the Athens community with the resources they need to flourish, whether it be helping those less fortunate or empowering the local arts scene. The second rendition of the Get Artistic campaign launched earlier this month alongside a special pale ale hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc hops. The goal of the campaign is to “help remove obstacles for self-supporting artists in today’s market.” As part of this mission, the brewery will 100% of the revenue generated from the 2019 Get Artistic beer and merchandise to help local artists in Athens. It’s a purposeful mission that showcases just how important the local community is to Creature Comforts.
I asked Matt Stevens about the campaign, what he’s most excited for this year and how he helps the brewery “walk our talk.”
Define Creature Comforts’ commitment to the Athens community: What does it mean to you?
“Simply put, we believe good businesses are good neighbors—they determine how they are uniquely positioned to serve their city. The guiding question for us at Creature Comforts since opening our doors in 2014 has been: How can we leverage our brand, our people and our resources to add value to this community? Sometimes this looks like aligning the business community to resource the agencies meeting our city’s most pressing needs (i.e., Get Comfortable) and other times like removing some of the barriers of self-supporting artists, which is what the Get Artistic campaign was created to do.”
Explain the growth of the Get Artistic campaign. How have the community and beer drinkers responded?
“Shortly after opening, we began connecting with the local art community by working with local artists to design our seasonal can artwork. Soon after that, one of our staff members, Madeline Bates—who was in UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art at the time and today serves as our Get Artistic Program Lead—began curating exhibitions for the tasting room. These efforts culminated a year ago (June 2018) into what is now the Get Artistic program and we recently launched the 2019 season on June 8. The community has been incredibly supportive of the program and it’s been so rewarding to observe the response as it gains momentum going into its second year.”
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Join us for the next CCBC Gallery exhibit: Creature Colors! These pieces feature work by our staff artists May Hitchings, Melissa Merrill, Gunnar Tarsa, and Emma Turner. This exhibition of chalkboard murals celebrates Creature Colors, a coloring booklet designed by artists from the Creature Comforts staff. Each drawing was inspired by a Creature Comforts beer or beloved symbol from the brewery. The Creature Colors coloring booklets will be for sale in Creature Comforts’ onsite retail store with 100% of profits benefit the Get Artistic fund. This will be on view from June 7th to July 14th, so be sure to come by for a brew before it's gone and feel free to check out the link for more info!
How has working with local artists impacted the creative process for the brewery? I.e., new beers/branding/advertising/etc?
“We initially decided to work with local artists on our seasonal can releases (Koko Buni, Automatic, Cosmik Debris and Table Beer) and it’s continued over time through our smaller batch limited release beers. One main impact on the creative process is working with more creative minds, which has allowed us to create unique and individualized brands. We do have an in-house graphic designer and resident artist at this point, but we continue to work with a variety of artists on different projects since we enjoy it so much and love the variety it offers. In addition to beer labels, we’ve had local artists create murals, posters, pottery and more. We’re thankful to be headquartered in such a vibrant creative community where we’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many talented artists.”
What are you most excited about for the 2019 Get Artistic campaign?
“There are two new aspects of Get Artistic this year that we’re particularly excited about, the first is what we’re calling Get Artistic‘s ‘DIY fund.’ The DIY fund is a portion of the funds raised earmarked to support artistic projects that don’t necessarily fall within the parameters of more traditional art studios, organizations, agencies. Many good examples of the sorts of projects can be found in James Preston’s 2018 film,”Athens Rising,” in case you haven’t seen it. We’re going to hold an event in August where potential recipients create a bit of a ‘science fair’ experience for our customers, where guests can then vote on their favorite pitch and the winners receive the DIY funding.
A second opportunity that is new to this program in 2019 is an emerging partnership with UGA’s Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, a cooperative which began last spring when we hosted Rebecca Rutstein, Willson’s Visiting Delta Chair, to present a lecture about her work to the community. Be looking for more co-sponsored events both on- and off-campus in the coming year.”
What other initiative or beer release are you most excited about this year?
“Alongside our more proper community impact programming like Get Comfortable and Get Artistic, we’ve recently initiated a smaller, more whimsical expression of our value to be a good neighbor. We’re calling it, simply, #GetNeighborly, and these seemingly random acts of kindness will be monthly opportunities for us at Creature Comforts to ‘walk our talk,’ as it were, and discover new ways to spotlight and support local projects and businesses, as well as to hopefully serve our neighbors and guests at the same time.
On National Donut Day (June 7), for instance, we bought a few hundred donuts from our wonderful friends and Ike & Jane and gave them out for free from our taproom, whether somebody was stopping by to have a beer or not! And back on World Book Day (April 23), we collected a truckload of books from our staff—and the local Habitat ReStore—and filled to bursting 15 Little Free Libraries around Athens.”
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To learn more about this great initiative from Creature Comforts, you can go here for more information. The campaign runs now through August. Cheers!
Feature image courtesy of Creature Comforts