Meet Joe Cawley,
Owner Alberta Rose Theatre
As the Alberta Rose Theatre nears it’s one-year anniversary, Main Street’s Executive Director Sara Wittenberg sat down with Joe Cawley, the man responsible for bringing this magnificent entertainment venue to Alberta Street.
Thanks Joe for your time. Tell us a little bit about you; have you always been in this industry? I grew up in the restaurant business, but while hospitality is in my blood, I knew that cooking, as a job wasn’t going to make me happy long term. In 1991, I got a job at one of the nation’s first curbside recycling providers, Sunflower Recycling Cooperative, right here in Portland. Sunflower eventually went under, but I continued on with several incarnations of the former Sunflower until becoming part owner of Far West Fibers. In 2009, I decided to follow my 10-year dream of opening a venue. I spent most of my free time and vacations for many years working at and attending music festivals and events, and putting on house concerts. I knew Portland needed a mid-sized seated room and I was wanting an old cinema to do it in. Be careful what you wish for!
We’re glad you followed your dream. Tell us about the building you call home, its history and role in our community. The Alberta Rose Theatre was originally called the Alameda Theater when it opened it 1927. It was where folks in the community would go for a little entertainment and the weekly newsreels. It had various owners and names up until it closed in 1978. It was derelict for years until it became a church in the eighties. It’s been really good for us that not many people have been inside for such a long time. It’s a new, old venue. It’s such a special room, and both the audiences and the artists that perform there tell us everyday. I feel so privileged to have been able to bring this theater back to life for Alberta and Portland.
The Alberta Rose, Last Thursday and the district were recently highlighted in a video that will be seen on Alaska Airlines flights. Do you have other thoughts or ideas to promote the district? Along with the Next Stop show that we were featured in, we had AAA do a piece in their travel magazine on the Theatre and the Alberta Art’s District. Our resident radio show, Live Wire, promotes the district on OPB and other stations across the country every week. We are also bringing thousands of people to Alberta Street every month from all over Oregon and Washington. We even have shows that people fly in from all over the country. That always feels good. We are working on marketing through concierge services with hotels at the airport and downtown to bring customers to our district. A big part of what makes The Alberta Rose special is the community we are in.
“Increased nightlife” was a common hope for Alberta at our community visioning session (thank you again for hosting!) what are your thoughts/ideas for increasing life after dark on Alberta Street? I think having a venue that brings world-class entertainment to Alberta Street will bring a natural draw of other like-minded businesses. I would love to see Alberta be an Art’s AND Entertainment District. That would be cool.
What have been your greatest accomplishments in your first year? Some days I still can’t believe I’ve made my dreams come true. I am amazed at the depth and variety of shows we’ve put on. We’ve had just about every genre of music, from folk, classical, jazz, rock, country, punk, opera, and even throat singers from Mongolia! We even hosted a truly beautiful memorial service. Throw in some live radio, fashion shows, literary events, theater and dance and we’ve got one of Portland’s coolest and most versatile performance venues.
What’s on the horizon at the Alberta Rose Theatre? Continuing to book a stellar line-up of diverse shows and adding a screen and projector to make things even more interesting. We have so many great things on the calendar for 2011. Check out our website for upcoming events. I hope to see you all at a show soon!
COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Our Executive Director, Sara Wittenberg caught up with Black United Fund Executive Director Adrienne Livingston to find out what they are up to!
Sara: Thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to me. What is on your agenda for Black History Month? Adrienne: Thank you for featuring the Black United Fund! February is a very important month for us. Our main fundraising event, the annual community unity banquet, is February 24th at The Governor Hotel. This event generates funds for our college scholarship programs and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend!
Sara: Tell us a little bit about what the Black United Fund is and what you are working on? Adrienne: The Black United Fund of Oregon was created in 1983 to address the disproportionately low level of charitable dollars given to organizations serving communities of color. We continue to seek dollars and volunteers to make a difference in the community, supporting programs focused on arts & culture, economic development and education. The past few months we focused much of our energy on our education programs. We held our first annual College Fair at Warner Pacific College in December – 135 students attended! Right now we are in the middle of our scholarship program, not only do we provide the scholarships but our volunteers help students with their applications from rough draft through final submission. Sometimes students don’t know they have a story to tell and they just need a little help finding it and telling it. We are also working on a new Study Abroad program. Research shows that studying abroad makes you more competitive in life and that of the 1% of American students who study abroad, 80% are white and only 4% are black. We want to change this.
Sara: You have mentioned volunteers a couple of times. Are you looking for volunteers and if someone reading this is interested in volunteering, whom should they contact? Adrienne: YES. Our volunteers are critical. With a small staff of 3.5 people, most of what we do depends on a dedicated and committed group of volunteers. Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering.
Sara: Alberta Main Street recently adopted our mission and goal statement based on our community visioning session. One of our overarching principles directing our work is to “include, honor and celebrate all of the diversity within our community.” Do you have any advice for us as we get started? Adrienne: It’s about building relationships! Look for different organizations, groups, people and reach out in a way that works for them. It is also important for people to step forward and get involved as well. If you get involved you have an opportunity to frame the picture, if you don’t – well, you might not like the picture.
Sara: The talk on the street is that there were once plans to have an African American Museum as a part of your building at 29th & Alberta? What are your plans for this space? Adrienne: We still have a vision for an African American Museum but this isn’t the location for a museum. We are still working through some ideas, in conjunction with William Hart, Architect with Carlton Hart Architecture, who have volunteered to help with the Pre-Development Services for the space which is a great first step. It may be a space for small business incubators or non-profits or a business that fills a necessary service gap in the district. Hopefully our plans will have greater definition by the end of 2011.
Sara: We look forward to hearing about your plans. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to share? Adrienne: We are excited about the opportunity to host and work with Alberta Main Street and MESO (Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon). This only strengthens all of our work and builds relationships that benefit us all.
ALBERTA MAIN STREET: NEW SITE & NEW LOGO
Welcome to the new Alberta Main Street website. If you are a resident or a visitor, it is our hope you will find this site a useful tool in navigating what Alberta Street has to offer you and encourage you to shop locally. If you are a local business or service provider, it is our hope that you will benefit from the visibility and organization Alberta Main Street is and will be providing.
About the Logo
The A is patterned after classic lettering for a strong foundation, creating a feeling of a shelter at the top of the peak to feel inclusive. The colorful belly-band is there to take all that classicism and spin it on its head and make it surprising. Plus, A is a positive letter. It’s #1. It’s the best grade. It’s quality. It’s sure better than F.
Speaking of Color
This isn’t about a single color. It’s about complementing whatever else is happening around it. Alberta is a canvas that people can use for all kinds of things, so why not create something that can blend in with any of it? We can also tell different stories using different frameworks. We could do a whole series about the Alberta Nightlife by using white- on-black icons. Let the artists go wild.
And the Tagline: Only On Alberta…
Quite simply, Alberta Street is a funky place that can’t be replicated. Sometimes wacky, always interesting.