by Erin Slattery
Just a short drive from Riverwest, through downtown and down Wisconsin Avenue, you’ll come across the Reedemer Lutheran Church at 19th and Wisconsin. And down in the basement you’ll find the home of The Coffee House. The name may be deceiving — it’s definitely not another Starbucks. Along with coffee, it’s the home of many local performers. The quaint little room is often open to a number of different performing artists, and all for a good cause. I stopped for a first visit in early February for a poetry reading. On the wall a banner reads: “Without wood, there’d be no fiddle. Without fiddles, there’d be no music. Without music, we’d be lost.” I knew right away that this was going to be a good night. On the way into the room, there were two big pots, one for coffee and one for hot water, and a wide selection of teas and hot chocolates. There was also a small table lined with snacks. At the door there is a wooden barrel to place donated canned foods and a volunteer to collect contributions. Upon entering the room, you see an eclectic mix of antique, mismatched chairs. The outskirts of the room are lined with old cushioned church pews. A few tables here, a few sofas there; the room definitely has a feeling of comfort and coziness. The lighting is provided by candles and a few colored lamps, likely from the seventies. The poets of the evening covered a wide array of topics, from living in the Middle East to the possibility that humans will evolve into cows. There are obviously no stipulations on what kind of performance art will be allowed. I spoke with Brett Kemnitz, who coordinates the food pantry events at the venue. His idea is that The Coffee House is there to “feed some hungry people and feed some minds.” He explained to me that $.50 of our contribution went to the church and the rest keeps the House and the food pantry open. The Coffee House seems to have a dual purpose: Helping others and encouraging the arts. Brett explained that most of the musicians who come in are either blues interpreters or folk musicians. Most of these musicians come in a few times a year to play for a well-known audience. Many people in attendance seemed to know one another, and with a group of less than 25, that is expected. While the average age is probably somewhere around 40, there was no feeling of discomfort for two 21-year-olds. The friend who ventured with me down to the House, on the walk home, told me that while I was speaking with Brett a few people approached her “just to say hello.” Meg and I were amazed by the acceptance and friendliness of the others, since when we first walked in, we thought it might be awkward because we were obviously not regular visitors. But that’s okay; we were welcomed and invited to return. I highly recommend a visit to The Coffee House for anyone who is thinking of stopping by. It is such a good cause and there are so many different events to choose from. Check out the Currents Community Calendar for upcoming events… and who knows, maybe you’ll run into Meg and me. We’re planning on returning as soon as we can.