After closing its in-house restaurant for budgetary reasons, the Fuller Craft Museum last spring reopened the venue as the ArtKitchen Café in order to explore craft through media such as music, poetry, and film.
So far, the Thursday-evening performance series has proved a successful way to connect with the local community and bring a new audience into a museum that made its reputation by hosting fine art creations by artists who work in traditional craft materials such as fabric, wood, metal, glass, and clay, said Titilayo Ngwenya, the museum’s communications director.
“We got a chance to meet people,” she said. “Folks who might only come out to hear music can then explore the exhibitions and learn about all that Fuller Craft Museum has to offer.”
Local garden club members came to the café last summer and took it upon themselves to beautify the outdoor patio stage, where live events are held. The Cape Verdean group Movimentu Shokanti organized presentations that include film, music, craft talks, and opportunities to mingle.
Indoors at the café, Ngwenya said, “The sound is great.” The room has low ceilings, wooden rafters, and a piano.
Thursday night, acclaimed jazz drummer, composer, and Berklee College of Music professor Yoron Israel leads his quartet, High Standards, in the ArtKitchen Café.
Israel’s playing has been applauded by jazz great Jack DeJohnette, a fellow drummer, who said Israel “has a sense of direction and a feeling of joy in his drumming, compositions, and arrangements. Yoron Israel is an important voice you should listen to.”
According to Israel, his music is influenced by world music, gospel, funk, rhythm and blues, and other styles in addition to jazz. His Boston-based quartet consists of Laszlo Gardony on piano, Lance Bryant on saxophone, and Henry Lugo on bass.
“This is a big concert,” said Ngwenya, speaking about a music series that has drawn new faces to the museum. “Our connection with Brockton and other surrounding towns will grow.”
Movimentu Shokanti, founded by Jose Montero of Brockton, is scheduled next at the café on Dec. 13.
“They bring the talent” and a crowd, she said. “We provide the sound, the atmosphere, the space.”
Montero said he sees Movimentu Shokanti (the words mean “shocking movement” in Creole) as a kind of cultural mixer, aimed at breaking down preconceptions.
Montero, who has a background in theater arts, said last week that his role is to put together programs that mingle many arts, break barriers, and promote interaction among people from different backgrounds.
“It’s the cross-pollination of cultures through the universal language of the arts,” he said of his partnership with the Fuller Craft Museum.
The group’s ArtKitchen Café programs have included screenwriter Mike Costa’s film “Proud to be Cape Verdean” and an outdoor program that included music, time to mingle in a natural setting, and a talk by a jewelry maker who uses Cape Verdean materials in a way that attracts young people.
The group’s “XINTADA” program next month — pronounced “shin-tada,” the Creole word means “seeding” — is an avenue “to educate people and share music and enjoy good conversation,” Montero said. “The art travels through everyone. The event itself is an art form. It has to start with educating our crowd.”
The program will include films from last month’s Cape Verde Film Festival, in which Montero participated as a festival jury member, and will begin at 5 p.m.
“We’re not changing our brand,” said Ngwenya, a singer herself who will take part in a Dec. 6 program at the café. She points out that the Thursday-night cafés are also free nights at the museum and everyone is encouraged to take in the Fuller Museum’s current exhibits, including Chris Gustin's recently opened show titled “Masterworks in Clay” and the juried “2012 Biennial Members Exhibition,” which Ngwenya calls “our best show ever.”
“Who doesn’t like somewhere to go in the evening and get a drink and something to eat and listen to good music?” she said. “As a Brockton resident, I’m always looking for a place I can do just that.”
The café’s “comfort food” choices include homemade apple pie, baked ziti, warm lentils, and macaroni and cheese.