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Home Arts & Culture Neutral Grounds Coffee Shop Creates Sense of Community

Students admire Of a Fragile Nature, an art exhibit curated by senior Sarah Johnson that is currently on display at Neutral Grounds.

Photos by Robin Consier


by Morgan German and Carrie Black

Despite the cold temperature, Neutral Grounds coffee shop was full throughout their Grand Opening Weekend events.


“Our goal is to create community and create a space that cultivates that in Seward. Seeing it connect and hearing feedback from people has been amazing,” Beth Toenjes, who has worked with product development through the process of opening Neutral Grounds, said. “We see different aspects of the community that are kind of separate, so for this to be a space to see that all come together is the coolest thing for us.”


On Thursday, Feb. 1, community members as well as Concordia students were invited to enjoy free espresso and cookies as they admired “Of A Fragile Nature,” an art show curated by senior Sarah Johnson.


“Originally, I wanted to do just a pop-up show and it was just going to be Elise (Loomis) and I, but then Elise was like ‘there’s these other artists whose work went really well with our work,’” Johnson said. “It turned from a small show with two artists to this large community of artists, and it was really hard for me to stop choosing artists because there are so many really talented artists in the art program.”


Johnson focused on art that fit well with her and Loomis’s work as she looked for pieces to include in the show, particularly pieces that were natural with sensitive line work and muted colors.


“I’m just amazed that out of all 10 artists, I feel that the body of work here is so cohesive and unified,” Johnson said. “Unintentionally, (the art show) has become about community. Neutral Grounds, what (owner) Eva (Sander) has talked about, has become about community.”


Johnson also said that most of the art in the show is for sale. Anyone interested in purchasing one of the pieces should speak with Johnson or Sander. The show will be up until the end of February, and any of the pieces that are sold will be available to be picked up after the show has ended.


“It’s nice to see the students who contributed show off their talents…because not many people use the gallery on campus, so it’s nice to get an opportunity to see it more as an open public view,” junior Faith Hanson said.


On Friday night, the new coffee shop was packed with Concordia students and people from around Seward, all there to listen to live music performed by Concordia student musicians.


The evening featured performances by sophomore Bethany Schilling, sophomore Brandon Holmes, junior David Schrampfer and sophomore Allie Brooks.


“It was a really cool opportunity to spread some joy to people,” Schilling said.


Schrampfer reciprocated this feeling.


“I know how important Neutral Grounds has been to so many people, especially to a lot of dear friends of mine. To be one of the first musicians to play at its opening weekend was incredible.”


Neutral Grounds is planning on showcasing a new artist each month, continuing to host live music, and looking at possibilities in connecting with Concordia’s music groups, such as its jazz band and choir.


“It was incredible to see the community support a business that was created by many of my close friends. I’m so proud of them, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here. They have my support all the way,” senior Jan Steinbrueck said.


Concordia students are also excited to see what the future of Neutral Grounds will bring.


“I’m excited to have another place to go off campus to study, hang out (and) drink coffee. I think it will draw a lot of college students,” Schilling said.


Toenjes later commended those who helped bring the ministry of Neutral Grounds to life.


“We have to give Bread of Life ministries amazing credit as well for their support and prayers for the past 15 years. None of this could happen without the whole Seward community.”

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