What can a cup do? Can it connect people and facilitate conversation? What would happen if those individuals were divided government leaders?

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Project Evolution

Michael J. Strand

The project is very simple (or so I thought) – Make two sets of cups and saucers, one representing the Republican Party, the other representing the Democratic Party. Simply swap the saucers and create an unmatched set: A cup from one party and a saucer from the opposing party. Deliver these misfit cups and saucers to each Unite States Senator with a simple request. “Please go across the aisle, and engage with one-another over a cup of coffee, when you do so feel free to swap saucers to create a matched
set as a symbol of human scaled conversation”.
I began this journey a bit over four years ago and when I look back at my state of mind at that time I can say with utmost honesty and vulnerability that I was a naïve optimist in both the potential of the project and the ease at which I could get the project done. I am used to simply willing things to happen, and this was a challenge that has taken far more than personal will or effort.....

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About Cuplomacy

What Can a Cup Do for Congress?

In 2015, after the new Congress has been seated, each U.S. Senator will be presented with a cup and saucer,
an offering from every state in the Union. The gift bears a simple prompt: go from across the aisle to across the table
and arrange a conversation over a soothing, warm beverage.

Each party will have a very distinct set which will be handcrafted in Fargo ND. Each set will honor the traditions and qualities of each party, but when the Senators open their boxes they will realize that the set is not complete, rather the cup and saucer combination are mismatched. The only way to complete the set is to exchange the mismatched items with a member of the opposite party.

Cups and Saucers as a Voice of the People

Political artwork often relies on interpretation to influence change. Cuplomacy, on the other hand, is political artwork that succeeds through function. The inherent nature of a cup and the humble gesture of this simple exchange communicates the all-important message: connect, share and converse. This message is not from a singular perspective, rather it is the voice of a thousand people across the land. Conservatives, Liberals, Centrists, Lefties, Righties and in between-ies have lent their voices to the project . Two items are abundantly clear, first we do not have a highly functioning government, and second we wish for a government that would work together across the aisle to effectively lead our nation.

Get Involved

Become a Cuplomat

We want every Senator to receive a handcrafted Cuplomacy cup and saucer
from someone who represents their state.
We're looking for 50 people, one from every state, who will either hand deliver
or authorize the delivery of this gift from them to their respective U.S. Senator.

What makes a Cuplomat?

1. You have to believe that Congress would benefit from sharing a cup of coffee.
We're not lobbyists. We're not protesters.
We're regular people who genuinely care about this country and seek to support
and encourage our legislators.

2. You should either live in the Washington DC area and/or be willing to travel to
the Capitol at your own expense. Alternately, you would authorize the delivery or
shipment of this object in your name.

If those two sound like you, we want to know.
Send us an email with your name, contact information and hometown state.
Include a brief statement about why you want to get involved.

Become a Cuplomat

Participating Cuplomats

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About the Artists


Cuplomacy Project Founder

Michael is an Associate Professor and Head of Visual Arts at North Dakota State University. His artistic practice investigates the potential of craft as a catalyst for social change. Strand is a 2014-2016 Bush Foundation Fellowship recipient, a 2013 Alumni Achievement Award recipient at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was named 2015 Ceramic Artist of the Year by Ceramics Monthly. Michael J. Strand’s work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally and focuses on animating a sense of community through the intersection of human system dynamics with objects. michaeljstrand.com


Cuplomacy Artist and Collaborator

Helen Otterson is a professional artist and teacher. Exhibited throughout the United States and Internationally, her ceramic and glass sculptures are part of the permanent collections at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Nicolaysen Art Museum, and the Plains Art Museum. In her role as Chair of the Ceramics Department at the Armory Art Center, Helen participated in a number of public art projects including Wall Together. Currently, she teaches ceramics and sculpture at North Dakota State University. helenotterson.com


Cuplomacy Digital Designer and Collaborator

Peter Atwood is an Intern Architect/Design Consultant and an Instructor/Technology Specialist in the Visual Arts and Architecture Departments at North Dakota State University. Originally from the Minneapolis area, Peter has worked in multiple architectural firms. A recent graduate from North Dakota State University with both a Bachelor of Environmental Design and Master of Architecture, Peter’s focus is primarily techniques and software development in digital design. Through his work with NDSU, Peter strengthened both the Visual Arts and the ALA departments in furthering the use and investigation of digital technologies. His research revolves around digital modeling, parametric design, digital fabrication and "the space" between the digital and physical.peteredwardatwood.com


Cuplomacy Documentarian and Engagement Specialist

Sarina Sandstrom will be graduating with degrees in Public History and History from North Dakota State University in May of 2015. She will be living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and hopes to find a career connecting history and engagement in order to inspire people to connect with history and their surroundings.


Cuplomacy Graphic Designer

Jordan Nelson is a graphic designer and UX architect at Myriad Mobile in Fargo N.D. Jordan brings several years of experience of design for engagement projects to the team and has worked extensively with Michael Strand on nearly every project completed in the past four years.


We want to hear your ideas on how to make Cuplomacy catch on.

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