Chalk Talk: Coffeehouses, Fuel of the Enlightenment

ChalkGimmeCoffeeKK.Chalkboard Easel, IntelligentsiaTHE AGE OF REASON WAS FUELED BY CAFFEINATED CHATTER in the cheap and cheerful English coffeehouses of the late 17th and 18th centuries, says historian Brian Cowan of McGill University. Unlike the brews in the alehouses, coffee sharpened thinking and revved up the exchange of ideas that led to what’s called the Enlightenment. Keep that in mind while considering these two chalkboard easels (click on the image for a larger view). The one at left was seen by Brooklyn Artisan across the East River in NoLita, outside Gimme Coffee on Mott Street; at right, along Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. (The Intelligentsia insignia looks like a salute to some Army Air Corps flyer who managed to make it home on a wing and a latte.)

(Photographs by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Chalk It Up: A Union Hall That Invites You In

You might think that Union Hall is where labor union members turn out for job calls. But not here. This Union Hall is on Union Street, as in "Union vs. Confederacy," and as the billiards suggest, it's a place you're invited to hang out. (Brooklyn Artisan photo pool)

You might think that Union Hall is where labor turns out
for job calls or votes. But not here. This Union Hall is on Union Street,
as in “Union vs. Confederacy,” and as the colliding bocce suggest,
it’s a tavern that invites you to hang out. (Photograph by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

CHALKBOARDS ARE A TIME-HONORED PRACTICE IN THE FOOD BIZ. Think of bistro menus propped on bentwood chairs in Paris, think of kosher deli listings on overhead blackboards while everyone’s shouting out orders, think of chalkboard easels outside restaurants along the streets and avenues of Brooklyn. Chalkboards can be as quick ‘n’ easy or as glamorous as the establishment requires. (Starbucks, for instance.)

Union Hall handshake logoAfter all, unlike print on paper, all you need to change an entrée (or adjust the prix fixe) is a moist bar cloth, and presto! The slate is as erasable as an iPad. The original tabula rasa. A little inspiration, a little colored craie (French talc stick), and the board becomes an invitation to express yourself or your business’s image. To quote your favorite philosopher or reference your favorite comics. To DIY or yield to your betters. In general the medium is fluid rather than stiff, friendly rather than formal; compare the above with the same Union Hall‘s logo at right.

From time to time over the next few weeks, Brooklyn Artisan will be sharing what we’ve seen through our lenses, with comments or not – mostly just letting the chalkistas speak for themselves.

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