If you haven’t heard of PeopleArt Buffalo, it’s probably because it’s a word of mouth live music performance venue. PeopleArt Buffalo, also known as PeopleArt Coffeehouse, is a non-profit organization that hosts a small concert every Friday, September to June, from 9pm to 11 pm. Each week, either a local musician performs original acoustic songs or a regional musician performs traditional folk music. Many young musicians in Buffalo start out by performing at PeopleArt, for an audience that former booking manager Stefani Goddard calls “cozy and intimate”, with twenty to thirty people usually in attendance. “Its mission is to bring original music to the public to keep inspiring musicians to keep writing and to keep playing…it’s a space for musicians to play their original compositions in a concert like atmosphere,” Goddard said.
This Friday, PeopleArt Buffalo will have their final show of the season performed by locally famed music group, City Fiddle. The event is $5, but be sure to bring a couple extra dollars for coffee, tea, and pastries. PeopleArt has changed over time and now only has the coffeehouse series to fund their efforts. The majority of the profit made from ticket sales and food sales goes to that night’s featured performer, and the rest goes toward renting the space. This ‘art for art’s sake’ music venue takes the meaning of ‘not-for-profit’ quite literally.
“Nobody would volunteer if they didn’t like the music. It’s because, at the time when it started there was a real need to hear original music. Buffalo at the time, there was no place you could go to play your original music or to hear someone else’s original music,” Goddard said.
At the time when it started there was a real need to hear original music.
Located in the lower level of Unity Church at 1243 Delaware Avenue, the volunteers will set up and break down the coffeehouse for each show. While there is no stage, there is a designated area for the performer with a spotlight, but no microphones or amplifiers. PeopleArt has no affiliation with the church that hosts them, other than the fact that they had to move to this location because it was cost effective.
Founded in 1977, PeopleArt used to have a permanent space where they not only had the coffeehouse nights, but they also had an art gallery, poetry nights, and theater performances. It was originally located on Elmwood Avenue upstairs from the Ujima Theater and eventually moved over to Lexington Avenue. At this time, Stefani Goddard took over as the booking manager. For ten years, Goddard planned every coffeehouse concert, and she describes the organization’s efforts as a “labor of love.” Every person who has worked or volunteered for PeopleArt has done so without pay, and for Goddard, the long hours began to interfere with her family life. She had to step down from booking manager when she had her first child in 1988. “I love PeopleArt, it was a big part of my life for a long long time and it’s still apart of my life… It was really difficult to let go but at the time I had to let go, but it’s nice to see that it kept going,” Goddard said.
Since then Bob Stalder has been the driving force of the organization by taking over the responsibility of booking musicians with the help of key volunteers Mike Meyer and Joe Tadaro. All these people have been influential to the organization along with the countless donors and volunteers listed on the PeopleArt Facebook page. One donor, artist Bruce Adams, made a significant impact by building the tables that PeopleArt continues to use to furnish the pop-up coffeehouse.
The only way any kind of organization can stay in existence is to attract new people.
While PeopleArt has some consistent musicians, there is a different person that performs each week. Although Stefani Goddard no longer works for PeopleArt, she still supports the organization by going to a concert every couple of months and performing once or twice a year. Goddard had plenty of stories to tell about the organization’s past and the comical experiences she’s had over the years. It’s evident that she has a passion for PeopleArt, and she said that she loves the atmosphere and purpose of the organization’s events. Goddard hopes that new people will continue to show interest and that PeopleArt’s spirit will stay alive. “The only way any kind of organization can stay in existence is to attract new people to come in, otherwise it just peters out little by little, which you don’t want to happen because it’s such a nice thing,” Goddard said.
For more information on PeopleArt go to their Facebook page. If you would like to book a performance call Bob Stalder at 716-833-8924.