Artichoke tunes up at its new digs
Ed Rosney used to spend his days wrangling people's TriMet complaints.
Often known as the agency's "superhero," the customer service manager retired last year after 24 years, and now spends his time playing mandolin in a band called Martingale.
He owes all his new passion to Artichoke Music.
"I came here to get strings for my guitar and mandolin," Rosney says. The next thing he knew, he was attending the Saturday song circle at Artichoke, then a class called "Playing well with others," which teaches beginners the basics of performance.
And now, of course, thanks to encouragement and facilitation by his instructor, he's in a band that just performed its first gig last spring.
"It's a place where you can come buy an instrument, take a class, and get up on stage for the first time," Rosney says. "The goal was to help us get songs performance-ready."
Artichoke — an icon in Southeast Portland since 1971 — isn't just an instrument shop, it's a nonprofit community music center that also is a cafe, music school and performance venue in one, with a busy lineup of weekly events and about 200 students per year who take part in dozens of offerings, from beginning ukulele to advanced songwriting.
Rosney is just one of about 200 dedicated volunteers at Artichoke, founded 46 years ago by Judith Cook-Tucker at its original Southeast Hawthorne Street location.
She called it "Artichoke" because artichokes are all heart.
It began as an instrument shop, then became a music venue and school, and then adopted its nonprofit status with a focus on community outreach in 2007.
In addition to lessons for students and adults, beginners to advanced levels, teachers bring free lessons to at-risk youth and senior centers across town.
This year customers new and old will find Artichoke at its new location, on Southeast Powell Boulevard, after the lease ran out at its longtime home on Hawthorne.
The search for a suitable building lasted eight months. The old location closed in July, the new store opened in August, the school's fall session began in early September, and the cafe opened soon afteward.
"We wanted to stay in Southeast, and find something where we could have a store, school and cafe," says Alexa MacDonald, a singer/songwriter and artistic director at Artichoke who first started coming to open mic nights when she moved to Portland five years ago. "It was a tough thing to find."
Moving to the new location took hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, between the packing, moving and three months of renovation.
It's now fully open, but the board is looking to offset some of the funds required for the move with a Jan. 14 benefit concert, "Anne Weiss: A benefit for Artichoke Music."
They see a bright future for Artichoke, which relies on donations and grants for 20 percent of its funds. The rest of the funding they're able to raise through low-cost programs, including $5 open mic nights on Thursdays, $5 coffee house night on Fridays, and performances by local and touring musicians on weekends.
"It's such a community; it was that spirit of community making this all possible," Rosney says of the big move. "It's close enough to the old neighborhood, but we also have new neighbors we can get to know."
If you go:
"Anne Weiss: A benefit for Artichoke Music"
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14 (doors open 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Café Artichoke, 2007 S.E. Powell Blvd.
Donation: Requested $20-$100; tickets: brownpapertickets.com
Huck Notari, Clambake Two (Gypsy Jazz with Hyung Nam and Joey Appel), Anne Weiss, Radio Stranger (Woody Moran and Kelly Brightwell with special guest Michael Henchman)