Grinnell Artists: Jasper Cole-Kink ’19

By Lily Bohlke
bohlkeli@grinnell.edu

Walking into Art House on Wednesday night, one could already smell the makings of beet burgers with pretzel rolls and homemade fries. Drummer, visual artist and culinary artist Jasper Cole-Kink ’19 was making dinner. As a busy Grinnellian, they scheduled their semester around dinnertime, which is at approximately 6 p.m. each day.

During high school, Cole-Kink made dinner four to five nights a week. They decided to attend a program in Western Massachusetts in which high school students worked in professional kitchens to learn what goes on in a restaurant kitchen, as well as help prepare food and eventually serve as a sous-chef at fundraising dinners. Cole-Kink worked in two different kitchens through this program: a farmhouse restaurant called John Andrews and a hotel restaurant called the Red Lion Inn. They then worked in more kitchens and at school fundraisers as a volunteer.

“If I’m going to do something, I want to enjoy it. … So I didn’t want to see it as just another chore,” they said. “I work creatively, and I love food.”

Through their extensive experience in the culinary arts, some areas they have become interested in include farmhouse-style cooking and spice theory.

“My go-to spice blend if I’m looking to liven something up is cumin seed, coriander seed, black cardamom and cinnamon. Whenever I can, I use whole spices. I have a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, because it’s just better,” Cole-Kink said. “I don’t use recipes a lot, so at home I do more farmhouse style cooking, where I just get whatever is fresh or at the farmer’s market and then design a meal around it.”

Culinary arts interest Cole-Kink in part because of the multi-sensory experience that can come with the creation of food.

“It’s a different style of creativity,” they said. “Something can look beautiful and taste horrible or look horrible and taste beautiful, and horrible-tasting things are more consequential than horrible-looking things in art.”

However, the kitchen is not Cole-Kink’s only workspace. They also do visual art, primarily painting and mixed media. Recently they have gotten into drawing, specifically figure drawing.

“At home, I work with plaster a lot, as a surface to paint on but also as a material to put on canvas. … I did a few plaster and enamel onto foam core things and twisting the foam core into different shapes because as the plaster dries, it works the material and it’s fun to mess around with things like that.”

Coke-Kink is also a musician, primarily a drummer. They began their music career with the saxophone, adding the drums to their repertoire in their pre-teen years. They took a few drum lessons, but then decided that they would rather take a different route.

“When I became an angsty pre-teen, I felt like I wanted to hit something so I started sitting down at the drumkit before band rehearsals,” Cole-Kink said. “[I] taught myself, basically just drumming along to tracks on my iPod, going to shows, watching people. … In retrospect, I’m sure I might be a better drummer if I had kept on taking lessons, but I also feel like I have developed a unique style out of that.”

Some of the people that played important roles in their musical development were their parents and their high school jazz band conductor, who had toured with Steely Dan and the Temptations during his career.

“I grew up listening to music all the time — my parents are both big music people. My dad raised me on some real good shit,” Cole-Kink said.

When they first got to Grinnell, Cole-Kink did not find many opportunities to practice their drum skills.

However, Cole-Kink then discovered FreeSound and got involved in numerous student projects when students interested in putting together a musical project and searching for a drummer began reaching out to them.

In their second year, they helped start the student band TGIF. TGIF came together after playing a set during Showvember with the name Funk Trump, shortly after the 2016 presidential election. At first, they performed covers, and more recently have been writing their own songs.

“J’remi Barnes [’19] has been really good with that — and he writes his own lyrics and everything. Ian [Donaldson ’20]’s been a creative powerhouse as far as general song architecture goes, and Silas [Hammel ’19] and I are kind of used to being more accompanying musicians, but this has also given us a chance to delve into our own creative tendencies and build something with everybody rather than just accompanying,” Cole-Kink said.

Cole-Kink’s artistry is not single-faceted, as they devote much effort and creativity to music and drumming, visual art and cooking. Culinary arts, however, do play a specific role in some of their career aspirations.

“I want to start a socialist commune where I just cook and that’s it. I want to open up a restaurant but I don’t want to have to deal with the business side.”

Cole-Kink’s artistic endeavors include a plethora of mediums, from culinary arts, to drumming, to visual arts, including plaster manipulation.
Photo By Helena Gruensteidl