By taking the focus off profits, a Portland music venue aims to serve a wider audience and attract new sources of revenue.

This was the message to the 150 guests at Tuesday night’s Launch Party at One Longfellow Square, where the organization’s board and staff explained the company’s transformation from a for-profit to a not-for-profit. The party served up sushi from Pai Men Miyake and music from Ben Hamilton, Putnam Smith, Rex Fowler and Jonathan Edwards.

The organization filed its nonprofit application with the IRS in April and is awaiting official approval. In the meantime, other local nonprofits have agreed to serve as fiscal sponsors to allow One Longfellow Square to apply for grants.

“I’m looking forward to the chance to reach out to the community and see what they want to see happening here,” Christopher Campbell told me. Campbell, who owns The Artist Studio and co-owns Pickwick Independent Press, co-founded One Longfellow Square with artist Stephen Benenson. Both serve on the board.

“It’s hard to develop all these possibilities when you’re focused on the day-to-day finances,” Campbell said. “This just opens it up in a way we haven’t had before.”

In particular, the move to nonprofit status has allowed One Longfellow Square to partner with youth development organizations and schools to provide music-based education programs for students.

“We’ve gotten so many requests from nonprofits to use our space,” Executive Director Rob Ellis told me.

Later, when he spoke to the guests who filled the performance space’s main floor and balcony, Ellis said the new focus on music-related youth development offerings has already brought One Longfellow Square into partnership with 14 area nonprofits.

Potential new partnerships were also explored during the party. Jake Hoffman, the founder of Guitar Doors, told me he talked with One Longfellow Square board president Ellie Chase that evening about possible collaborations.

“We’re a new nonprofit,” Hoffman said. “We do music programing in the youth prison system. We’re starting to reach out to other community members.”

Kathy Damon, who heads development at Breakwater School, which is one of the organizations already working with One Longfellow Square, told me: “It’s so important for small nonprofits to gather together.”

One Longfellow Square also has a supportive group of fans in the local concert-going community.

“For people who live in the West End, it’s huge to be able to walk down here and see live music,” board member Charlie Miller told me. The music venue is only a 15-minute walk from his house.

“It’s turning into a more versatile venue,” Miller said, and added that the organization is seeking to bring in opera, classical music and world affairs programming to complement its already robust lineup of folk, jazz, blues and world music.

“It’s an eclectic blend and I think there’s something for everybody, and the programming they want to start sounds interesting,” Mary Bauer of Portland told me.

“The music venue part is going to stay pretty much the same, it’ll just get better,” Tom Rota, the organization’s managing director, said when he addressed the crowd from the stage.

“I’ve been coming here since they opened,” Barbara Everett of South Portland told me. “I love the music they bring here. When I found out they were becoming a nonprofit, I joined as a member.”

To coincide with the move to nonprofit status, One Longfellow Square spruced up its interior with help from architect Curt Sachs, who donated his expertise. Inside the theater, deep, rich paint (donated by the Paint Pot), iridescent curtains and decorative designs hand-painted by Portland artist Patrick Corrigan give the space a sophisticated, urban feel.

“I wanted to focus people’s eyes on the stage by darkening up the colors in back,” Corrigan told me. “This used to be a Chinese laundromat, so a lot of the design elements refer to that history.”

Before his performance, I had a chance to chat with singer/songwriter Edwards of Cape Elizabeth, whose 1971 hit “Sunshine” rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He continues to perform and record music. After touring throughout the Northeast, he’ll return to One Longfellow Square in April. “It’s really intimate,” he told me in reference to the venue. “You can’t get away with anything in here (without the audience noticing). And it’s a receptive, sophisticated audience.”

For anyone interested in backing the arts organization, Rota told the crowd that in addition to becoming a member or making a donation to the nonprofit, partygoers should “keep coming back here for shows and bring your friends. That’s the best way you can support us.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila