The Meaning Behind 22 Works of Art in Starbucks Military Family Stores

A small carving tool skimmed a flat, rubber surface containing a hand-drawn image of combat boots.

Artist Jennifer Ament gently guided the chisel, creating grooves as she outlined her design. Next, she rolled black ink over the pattern and placed a cream-colored paper over the design. Applying pressure to the back, she made a one-of-a-kind print.

Ament repeated the linocut printmaking technique hundreds of times as she created original art for Starbucks Military Family Stores.

Starbucks Military Family Stores employ many baristas and managers who are veterans or military spouses. The stores work with military and veterans service organizations in each community where they’re located. The company has already dedicated 16 Military Family Stores, with plans to have 30 across the country by the end of 2016. Hand-printed art that is locally relevant for each military branch is incorporated into the design of each store.

“We are fortunate to have so many partners (employees), family and friends who are veterans, military spouses and active-duty reservists. We wanted to honor their service and sacrifice,” said Lara Behnert, senior manager, Starbucks Creative Studio art programs.  “Starbucks is always looking to make connections with our customers through art, and to help them discover local artists.”

The studio approached Ament, a Seattle-based artist, to design and handcraft the artwork for Military Family Stores because her style is both “gentle and powerful,” Behnert said. Ament was also a natural choice because she has many relatives who served in the military. Ament is the great granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, niece, and sister of servicemen. 

“I feel incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of this program,” she said.

Ament, whose family is from a small town in upstate New York, recalled the awe of watching large military parades her community used to have to welcome home those who served. In contrast today, a study by Blue Star Families found only 12 percent of the U.S. public truly understands the service and sacrifice of the one percent who have served in the military.

“I want people in military communities who see this art to feel gratitude for fellow servicemen and women,” said Ament. “I also want them to feel a sense of community and comfort.”

A service member holding a child’s hand at a parade, an American flag waving, a parachute landing with a crate of supplies, and a majestic eagle swooping in for a landing are among the 22 distinct images Ament produced.

“I really like the depiction of the enlisted Marine Corps cover – the Marines refer to hats as covers – and I think the Huey (helicopter) is one of the coolest pieces of all,” said Mick James, a Marine and manager with the Starbucks Global Responsibility team. 

The artist and creative studio consulted several Starbucks partners from each branch of service, through every step of the process.

“When you walk up to the art it has a gallery feel to it,” James said. “I hope it brings people together and builds relationships between civilians and military in the community, and that it prompts people to ask questions about the art – what were we trying to achieve, what is this representative of? If we can have conversations like that, I think we’ll be able to go a long way toward bridging the military-civilian divide.”