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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The Coffee House brews up local art for a good cause

The Coffee House isn’t like Starbucks or the Brew Bayou. Frappuccinos and double shot espresso drinks aren’t on the menu. Instead, the venue provides patrons with a small, intimate setting that’s perfect for acoustic sets and spoken word poetry.

Located in the lower level of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, right across from Mashuda Hall, The Coffee House has made a name for itself as one of the longest running nonprofit coffee houses in America.

The Coffee House was founded in 1967 with the help of the late Rev. Alan Davis of Lutheran Campus Ministry and the Rev. Chuck Witt and Agnes Zeidler of Redeemer Lutheran Church. Initially started as an outreach program for the surrounding community and Marquette students, The Coffee House has grown to incorporate a variety of arts programming and community initiatives on a monthly basis.

Sandy Weisto, a manager at The Coffee House, started attending shows there in the early ’80s and later began to volunteer her time. The Coffee House’s interest in music and art kept Weisto coming back to support it year after year.

In a decent-sized city like Milwaukee, it’s usually easy to find a venue that caters to specific interests in the arts and music, usually a bar. The Coffee House, however, is one of the few places where people can go to see acoustic music and poetry in an alcohol-free environment.

“Everyone who is involved really loves music and the arts,” Weisto said. “We have an invested interest in keeping the venue open. It’s a lot of work.”

In recent years, The Coffee House has started promoting discussions on social issues through its “Living Activism” Program. Once a month, different activist groups inform people of their organization while also bringing some sort of entertainment aspect to their presentation. Donations are asked at the door and all the proceeds go to the featured activist organization.

The main purpose behind “Living Activism” is to help local organizations reach a broader audience and engage people in the community so they are aware of different issues affecting them. Groups like Hunger Task Force, Peace Action Wisconsin, the Luther Volunteer Corps and the Urban Ecology Center have all participated in the “Living Activism” Program in the past.

The first Friday of every month, The Coffee House also hosts a food pantry benefit where performers volunteer their time to play and audience members are asked to bring in cans of food and a small donation for admission. Half of the proceeds go to the Central City Churches food pantry, and the other half helps support The Coffee House.

The Coffee House is run solely by volunteers, which sets it apart from other music and art venues in the city. The volunteers organize a number of different programs and perform multiple tasks during each event.  From booking performers to putting on open mic nights, volunteers work hard to make every performance and event a success.

Though The Coffee House started as a place primarily for young people, attendance from Marquette students isn’t booming as it was in the late ’60s.

“We would be really happy to see more students,” Weisto said. “We would love to hear students perform at our open stages.”

While most of the promotions for The Coffee House’s events are through word of mouth, promoting to students is difficult because of Marquette’s strict restrictions on postings on campus and the limited availability of The Coffee House’s volunteers.

This month, The Coffee House has a number of local artists set to perform, a benefit concert for the organization Youthaiti, and open mic nights open for anyone willing to perform, students included.

The Coffee House does not rely on fancy logos or dainty drinks to bring people in, but rather a passion for the arts and activism and a genuine interest in bringing all types of people together.

You can learn more about The Coffee House’s calendar and possible volunteer opportunities by visiting their website,

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