Art of the Cocktail to bring in funds for public art

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 14, 2017

 Jordan Semma, a bartender at J’s Penalty Box, makes a chocolate martini drink made from Valentine Vodka, chocolate sauce and Koo Koo Liqueur. Semma is practicing to participate in the Art of the Cocktail event, which raises funds to install public art in downtown Ferndale.

Jordan Semma, a bartender at J’s Penalty Box, makes a chocolate martini drink made from Valentine Vodka, chocolate sauce and Koo Koo Liqueur. Semma is practicing to participate in the Art of the Cocktail event, which raises funds to install public art in downtown Ferndale.

Photo by Donna Agusti

FERNDALE — In recent years, Ferndale’s Downtown Development Authority has worked to install public art in an effort to beautify the city.

That work will look to continue with the fourth annual Art of the Cocktail event, which raises funds to install public art in downtown Ferndale, from 6 to 9 p.m. June 15 at two neighboring venues: M-Brew, 177 Vester Ave., and Valentine Distilling Co., 161 Vester Ave.

Ferndale DDA Operations Manager Cindy Willcock said that after an outdoor sculpture exhibit was held in 2012, the DDA decided to focus on growing the amount of public art in the downtown.

“Public art has been something that every time we’ve done consumer surveys, public art has been the No. 1 thing that people want to see more of in the downtown,” she said. “We want to keep growing the public art that’s in the downtown, adding to the collection that we have.”

Willcock said the event is kind of like a TV cooking show, where bartenders from local Ferndale establishments will get together and craft a cocktail for attendees to try. Participants will get one vote for the cocktail of their choice, and the winning drink will be named the “Official Cocktail of Ferndale” for 2017, while the bartender gets a prize and their bar will be given a trophy.

There also will be music, appetizers and a silent auction featured.

“We realized we have all sorts of art and artists in the downtown, and there’s an art to making craft cocktails,” she said.

From the three previous events, Willcock said, the DDA has been able to raise about $10,000 for public art. With that money, they’ve been able to purchase two sculptures, “Belier Rouge” and “Time Waits for Know-One,” as well as graffiti art pieces.

Willcock is looking to raise $5,000 from this year’s event, after covering its expenses. Something she is hoping to fund this year is the continuation of the Art in SMART bus shelter program.

“We are turning the bus shelters located in the downtown into public arts,” she said. “We’re giving them facelifts. We’re working with the partnership that we have with SMART, and we’re working on revamping and adding artistic elements to the bus shelters we have, so that we have some functional art in the downtown.”

The featured bartenders for the event are Go Comedy’s Samantha Sage, Toast’s Heather VanHaaren, J’s Penalty Box’s Jordan Semma, Ferndale Elks Club’s Guy Krowl, Woodward Avenue Brewers’ Erica Pietrzyk, The Oakland’s Desmond Oliver, The Conserva’s Jarrod Kassis, The Bosco’s Lisa Thaqi, GreenSpace Café’s Traci Jo Rizzo and Dino’s Lounge’s Noelle Baricalli. The special guest bartender is Mindy Cupples, who was the winning bidder at the 2016 Art of the Cocktail for the opportunity to be a guest bartender.

Semma trained to be a bartender for three months and officially has worked as one for six. He said he specializes in dessert martinis, such as key lime pie and French silk pie.

“I like to consider myself a martini machine,” he said. “I can take pretty much any ingredient and turn it into a martini. Last night at work, I just decided to make an orange creamsicle martini for one of my customers. So I’m very good with my palette and being able to combine the flavors to make a cocktail.”

While he’s unsure of what cocktail he’s going to be making at the event, he said he’s confident that whatever he makes, the people will enjoy.

Semma added that he’s excited about the event too, as public art is something that’s extremely important to him.

“I grew up as a theater kid,” he said. “So performance art is my biggest thing, and I know how much courage it can take to be able to put your artwork out for people to see.”

Tickets for the event cost $40 and can be found at www.downtownferndale.com.