Gulu-Gulu Cafe Brings Boston Art Alive

By Kaleigh O’Brien

Art, music, books, live entertainment, films, great food, and drinks make up the Gulu-Gulu Café. The Gulu-Gulu Café was originally located in Lynn, Massachusetts, and now is conveniently located right off of the Salem stop on the Boston Commuter Rail. The atmosphere at Gulu-Gulu is fun and welcoming, where bright-colored walls and exposed brick reveal various paintings of Jack the Boston terrier: the café’s own official mascot. The European-style café is a unique hot spot that promotes and encourages music and art in the Greater Boston area. With something new and exciting to offer every night of the week, the Gulu-Gulu Café is guaranteed to never be a bore. Some of the weeknight specials include “Dinner & a Movie Tuesdays,” “Open Mic Wednesdays,” and “Philharmonic Thursdays,” featuring new and returning independent, local music acts. While you sit back with a fresh espresso and enjoy live music or poetry, you can also view the ever-changing artwork that is displayed throughout the restaurant. The artwork, changing monthly, is created by local Boston artists. Because this quaint café also acts as a local art gallery, I talked to the general manager, Laura Potter Walton, to get an inside look at how the artwork is picked, displayed, and sold, at the Gulu-Gulu.

What was the inspiration for opening the Gulu-Gulu Cafe?

The original Café Gulu-Gulu was owned and operated by a Frenchman named Frederic Lasne in Prague, Czech Republic, between the years 1994 and 1999; the café was immensely popular for expatriates and locals alike. During the day one could sit, relax, enjoy an espresso, and read for hours on end.

During the evening Gulu-Gulu was an electric gathering place. Owners Steve Feldmann and Marie Vaskova got to know each other at the Café Gulu-Gulu during the spring of 1995. They were married a little over a year later and held their wedding party at the café. This was a very special place for a lot of people and something was lost when the company’s lease was not renewed in 1999. By resurrecting the inspiration of Gulu-Gulu in Massachusetts, Steve and Marie are looking to bring a little piece of Prague to America.

What are the typical customers like who come in?

Our customers range from teenagers coming in for dessert or smoothies, to 80-somethings who love our coffee and crepes, and everyone in between. We tend to attract an eclectic group here, and we really embrace all walks of life. Each day we have something different going on that attracts different types of people. We have movie nights on Tuesdays, Open Mic on Wednesdays, and live music Thursday through Saturday ranging from indie to blues to jazz to folk to experimental. Also, the last Sunday of every month we have a GLBTeadance.

How do you pick the artists that you will feature?

Steve Feldmann, who owns the café with his wife, Marie Feldmannova, chooses the artists we feature. Some of them we know as customers or friends of the café; others have submitted their work without us having met them. If Steve likes it, he’ll try to give the artist a show. One caveat: we do not display photography.

Do you only feature Boston-based artists?

I believe we have only shown Boston area-based artists. While I don’t think we’d be opposed to featuring artists outside of the Boston area, we do feel strongly about supporting the local arts.

Is all of the artwork you show available to purchase?

All of the artwork is available for purchase except for a few key pieces. Above the bar are two paintings that were commissioned for the café and are not for sale. Greg Orfanos, who has shown at Gulu-Gulu before, painted these wonderful portraits of the owners’ two dogs (and Gulu mascots), Jack and Charlie. Matthew Giuffre will be the last featured artist of the year with his work showing from November 15 to January 2010. Come down and say hi, maybe make a purchase, or just support the local arts!


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