As of April 17th, the recession has claimed a cultural casualty near the Elliot Park neighborhood, just outside downtown: the upscale coffee shop e.p. atelier has called it a day. More than somewhere to buy coffee, soup, and sandwiches and bury your face in a computer screen—certainly, you could do those things—it was a place of community with paintings, drawings, a library of books and magazines to sit and read, a place with chess and other board games you could sit and play and, in general, a place folk could gather and get to know one another. There were regular readings by poets, essayists, novelists sharing chapters of their books, even space for playwrights to share their work. E.p. atelier wasn’t only about business; it was also about people connecting with one another.
Accordingly, it was with respect that on April 11th, some talented folk took to the e.p ateliar stage, giving the place a shindig of a send-off. Singer-songwriter Barbara Meyer led an afternoon performance, accompanied primarily by percussionist-vocalist Stanley Kipper, bassist Bill “Honey Bee” Hullet, and keyboard man Bruce Jackson. Meyer, who doesn’t exactly wear herself out appearing in public, was delighted to be on hand. “It’s been fabulous playing at atelier,” she said. “It’s a very relaxed environment, yet very much designed with musicians in mind. It was very rewarding to play a swan song there, surrounded by friends. [E.p. ateliar partners Diane Ingram and Shar Kanan] are both so supportive and encouraging. It’s truly been a privilege to play there, and I’m sad that the venue is disappearing. However, I have no doubt that they have something else up their sleeves that will enhance the local music scene.”
“Atelier has been an oasis for me,” says Kipper. “We, Di and Shar, go back a long ways. Playing there is special. There’s, like, a homecoming vibe for me every time.”
I never went there much, myself—too pricey. Still, there’s memories. The first time I interviewed Kipper, it was there. I had no idea at the time, but it turned out to be the first of many encounters with fascinating cat whose attitude toward music as a spiritual experience is just as special as his aptitude for it. And there was singer-songsmith Chastity Brown. I wandered in one night a while ago and caught an interesting surprise. It isn’t every day a critic gets new perspective on an artist. Before that night, I’d reviewed her to less-than-flattering effect. This evening, though, she was flawless. Where I’d knocked Brown for being derivative in her material, she brandished incandescent originality. Where I’d slammed her vocals as being disingenuous, she threw down with compelling authenticity and heartrending passion. I was quite pleasantly blown away.
Too bad about the closing of such a rewarding refuge from the monotonous and mundane. You don’t come across its like every day. Stanley Kipper put it perfectly, calling the enterprise an oasis. R.I.P.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.