Volume 76, Number 17 | September 13 - 19, 2006

Jim Carroll, left, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels are among the artists being featured at the first New York City Starbucks Salon in Soho.

Unclear if new Starbucks Salon is causing any buzz

By Lori Haught

Starbucks calls it an open forum to promote local “emerging” artists, while community members say it’s just another way to sell more coffee.

The Starbucks Salon made its New York debut at the chain’s coffee shop on 76 Greene St. in Soho on Friday. It is featuring all-day performances by emerging (and some not-so-emerging) artists through Sept. 17.

“It’s to show our enthusiasm for emerging artists and our enthusiasm for keeping the arts alive,” Christopher Havard-Trapi, manager at 76 Greene, said.

Starbucks seems to be stretching the definition of “emerging artist” a “tall” — as in small — bit, however. Some of the less-than-emerging artists performing include poet and rocker Jim Carroll, who is doing a reading at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC, giving a hip-hop performance at 9 p.m. on Sept. 16.

Admission is free to the public and Havard-Trapi suggested 5 p.m. as a good time to come and claim seats.

But it’s not clear that interest in the coffee giant’s salons is exactly “grande,” at least within the Downtown arts scene.

Outlaw Gallery owner Clayton Patterson said it was noteworthy that Starbucks was showing an interest in the local arts scene, but speculated they were using it as more of an opportunity to enhance their own business.

“If they were actually acting as a patron and enhancing someone’s career, I would say great,” Paterson said. “But it’s just a way to sell more coffee.”

Some artists are even more skeptical.

Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talen, a performance artist preacher who leads the anticonsumerist Church of Stop Shopping, has long been outspoken against chain stores like Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret.

“That’s a joke of the tragic variety,” he said of the Starbucks Salon. “People behind the counter [of small shops] are the real artists that Starbucks seeks to destroy.”

The Church of Stop Shopping is performing Sunday afternoon shows at the Spiegeltent summer performance space in the South St. Seaport through September. They have staged performances in Starbucks before, posing as customers and sharing facts about the company with each other in raised voices for everyone in the store to hear. Talen said at one such performance, over 500 people vowed never to go to a Starbucks again.

“They kill our community and make it difficult to grow artists,” he said. “You have to be very depoliticized to go see an artist at a Starbucks.”

Told that Carroll was part of the salon, Talen said it was disappointing since Carroll used to be one of his “heroes.”

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