Using recycled coffee grounds allows Cyndi Gusler, associate professor in Visual and Communication Arts, to tie in sustainability and shed light on farming practices that "have left a shadow of what the land used to be." Disintegration opens on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 4p.m. Photo by Cody Troyer.

Art Gets Energized by Coffee

“Disintegration,” an art exhibit made from recycled coffee grounds, calls attention to the loss of rainforest habitat to coffee production in Latin America.

The exhibit will take up much of the floor of the Margaret Martin Gehman Gallery at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Wednesday, Jan. 25, through Thursday, Feb. 2 Thereafter, the exhibit will return to the earth in the form of compost.

Cyndi Gusler, associate professor of Visual and Communication Arts collected coffee grounds from local shops, dried them, and then “dry painted” them on the gallery floor to illustrate rainforest flora and fauna found in Central and South America.

“The rainforest supports a range of plants and animals and it is being thrown off balance by the over-development of hybrid, sun-grown coffee,” Gusler said. “Birds that appear in the gallery depend on the rainforest habitat, including the flycatcher, whose habitat is being lost at such a rapid rate it is now an endangered species.”

Using recycled coffee grounds allows Gusler to tie in sustainability and shed light on farming practices that “have left a shadow of what the land used to be.”

Gusler, with the help of EMU student Kelby Miller, set up a time-lapse camera to take pictures every second to document her work. Miller edited the footage as part of a two-minute preview of the show.

Despite over investing over 40 hours of work, Gusler does not want this art to exist permanently. “After the show, I will sweep up the drawing and toss the grounds onto the EMU compost pile so they can infuse the earth with potential for growth.”

There is an opening presentation at 4 p.m. in the EMU MainStage Theater with gallery reception at 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information contact the VaCA department at 540-432-4360 or email

Discussion on “Art Gets Energized by Coffee

  1. There’s nothing I enjoy more than eco friendly art. I’ve been to Tanzania and seen first hand what some coffee growers do to make a living so I guess there is one thing I’d like more…. fair trade eco friendly art ;)

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