Café Pearl is located just inside the RISD Museum’s Benefit Street entrance, situated in the newly named Pearl and Ernest Nathan Gallery—a gift of the Nathan and Gerson families.
Operated by Bolt Coffee, Café Pearl offers visitors and passersby a sophisticated yet casual place to gather, relax, and replenish with a thoughtful menu of coffee-based beverages, as well as light fare from Providence-based bakeries, and their own in-house creations.
The café and adjacent Museum lobby are designed by Ben & Aja Blanc, the Providence-based design studio of RISD alumni Ben and Aja Blanc (MFA 2004, Furniture Design; MA 2006, Art Education). “The design for the RISD Museum’s café reflects a merging of classic materials with modern forms and features the work of several of our RISD alum design colleagues,” says Aja.
“Our goal was to aesthetically honor the history of RISD communal spaces on campus while celebrating the possibility of unexpected discovery within the Museum.”
Ben adds, “Going into the archives and finding a foundation, finding a narrative as an inspiration or a starting point, speaks to our way working with our objects. It gets the project rolling and it gives a feeling or atmosphere to the project. Then we switch and instead of looking backward we start looking forward. As Aja said, ‘How can we create something that has an essence of the past that begins to create its own narrative and look forward?’”
RISD alumnus and Providence-based architect Ed Wojcik (BArch 1987, Architecture), of Ed Wojcik Architect Ltd., led the café’s construction with project manager Katie van Hamel (BArch 1999, Architecture). Many of the café’s fixtures are also by RISD artists and designers— including tables designed by Asher Dunn (BFA 2008, Industrial Design); fabrication support by Nick Hollibaugh (MFA 2003, Furniture Design), Isaac Juodvalkis (BFA 2010, Industrial Design), and Jeff McKenzie (BFA 2005, Furniture Design); and wallpaper from Calico Wallpaper, coowned by Rachel Cope (BFA 2003, Sculpture) and her husband, Nick Cope.