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MFA Thesis

Vermont State University 2024

Art is a means of expression and, as such,

I believe works of art should have something to say.


Bitter Brew:
Consumption Choices & Consequences

Amy Kolb Noyes

MFA Thesis Show

Julian Scott Memorial Gallery

Vermont State University

Johnson, Vermont

March 11 - April 5, 2024

Opening reception:

3 p.m. Wednesday, March 13



So many Americans have an intimate relationship with coffee. It's among the first things we think about when we wake up. When we are tired, cold, or in need of comfort, we turn to coffee as the remedy. We pledge allegiance to Dunkin' or Starbucks or Pete's, or the local coffee shop down the road. Machines by Keurig or Phillips or Nespresso hold a place of honor on our kitchen counters, sometimes accompanied by bean grinders and milk frothers.


But the story behind or favorite cup o' joe is not always pretty. As a whole, the industry exploits indigenous people around the globe. It destroys native communities. It uses child labor. It devastates the rainforest and exasperates and expediates global warming.


The good new is, we have options. We have access to information. If we so choose, we can spend our money on coffee that pays farmers a fair wage. We can seek out coffee that is grown using sustainable, earth-friendly practices. We can purchase certified Organic and/or Fairtrade coffee, which meets a strict set of criteria to address at least some of the industry's problems.


In Karen Stankiewicz's article "Why Drink Fair Trade Coffee? Separating Fact From Fiction"  on she writes, "Whether you intend to or not, by drinking conventional coffee, you are promoting environmental destruction through monocultures and pesticides, payment below the subsistence level and exploitative child labor. These problems are real and can be directly attributed to our coffee consumption."


My hope for Baggage is that it will prompt you to think about your choices when it comes to products such as coffee, chocolate, cotton and oil that have a history of exploiting the people and places of the global south to feed our lifestyle choices in the global north.

The Making of Baggage

Baggage on Display

Promise Board

Gallery visitors were asked ...

What can you do?

Please take this opportunity to make a consumer pledge.

Write on a slip of brown paper something you're able and willing to do as a consumer that will make a positive difference for the planet or people along the supply chain. It can be any supply chain – not just coffee.

Pin your pledge to the board to inspire others.

Your pledge should be anonymous.

Only you will know if you keep it.

I hope you do.


Children's Books

I have been writing stories and poems for children for much of my life, and have had many published in local and regional publications over the years. More recently, I have begun illustrating some of those poems and stories. My MFA Thesis Show includes a reading nook with some of the works I have illustrated during my time in the program. They include the picture book Trash to Treasure: A Sea Glass Adventure, an emerging reader story called Made in the Shade, and a collection of illustrated poems.

Setting up the Reading Nook

The final result ...