Artists local to the Cotati area showcased their work at an art reception held at Redwood Cafe on Feb. 10. It was a night of live music, local art and food. Each of the artists were introduced on stage and roamed about the cafe in an approachable fashion for potential buyers or just friendly conversation.
Such a welcoming atmosphere is not unusual for Redwood Cafe. The cozy coffee shop and restaurant has become a staple of art and entertainment in the community, and a favorite among Sonoma State students.
Over recent years, Redwood Cafe has become an important destination on Old Redwood Highway, as well as a gallery for local artists.
However, people who have been in the area long enough may remember when the cherished coffee spot went by a different name.
Back in the 1970s it was called The Last Great Hiding Place. The space would go through several different owners and names before Michael McCullaugh restored and reinvented what is now Cotati’s beloved Redwood Cafe. In 2011, Eolah Bates joined the Redwood team as resident art curator.
“I really like to support local, visual artists, professional artists and young artists,” said Bates. “I like to give them a chance to exhibit as well. It’s just been really, really successful.”
Redwood Cafe spotlights a variety of visual art, including photography, paintings, mosaics and even old-fashioned brass lamps. The opportunity to show art at the venue has attracted artists of all walks of life. One such artist is Nicolas Carjuzaa, a Sonoma State graduate, and part-time photographer.
“I’m trying to share the things, people and places I've seen on my journeys with others,” said Carjuzaa. “Displaying my photography at the Redwood Cafe means that I have the opportunity to share my travels with its incredible and diverse customers.”
A quick look at the event calendar reveals there is something going on most nights at Redwood Cafe, and more often than not, music is involved. Whether it’s their weekly Irish Jam Session, a nod to owner Michael McCullaugh’s North Irish roots, or their anticipated Open Mic Night, live music is an integral part of the sense of community the cafe brings.
One man who knows about visual art, as well as the live music scene at Redwood Cafe is Robert Dougherty. Dougherty can frequently be found playing the piano at Redwood Cafe, in addition to having exhibited some of his artwork.
“Playing the piano is one of those things I can’t leave alone. It’s been fun. Lately I've been playing in places like this,” said Dougherty. “Michael is very supportive of community projects, he loves to get local things happening, and he likes giving local musicians a chance.”
With a calendar packed with events that draw in the local community, it’s no wonder Redwood Cafe has become such a valued place in Sonoma and the North Bay.
“It has become a community venue for a lot of people. A lot of the people in the surrounding area know Redwood Cafe,” said Bates. “People love to come here. They just get to know each other because we’re kind of a hub for entertainment in the community.”
The cafe has a new project in the works. The team at Redwood is currently working on their wine and beer garden to attract those who appreciate the craft. In the meantime, Redwood Cafe continues to knit the surrounding community closer together through the support of local artists.