By Madeline Alvarez, Sports Editor
Open Mic events hosted by the English Department have seemed to draw larger and larger crowds, and hosts Matthew Clark and Murphy Obershaw said they are excited to see the event is starting to make an impact on campus.
“The Open Mic is meant to be a space where fellow artists, poets, musicians, can share their work and be supported by other artists, and simply enjoy the company of fellow creative minds,” Clark said.
The event, which first started in May 2018, offers a space for students, faculty and staff to present works created by themselves or by another person. Students are eligible for a prize and staff and faculty can present what they choose as a showcase. Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente and former student Amy Emerson worked together to get it started, Obershaw said.
“The very first Open Mic we ever had was at the end of the second semester of my freshman year and it was in what was back then Scooter’s,” Obershaw said. “Dr. Crane hosted it and it was like this little group of us that showed up. And we were all in a little circle and we all read what we had and I was so nervous that I shook the whole time.”
Obershaw is now one of the event’s emcees.
In the fall of 2019, Obershaw said, the event became more structured.
“That’s when they actually had the format and the prizes and people actually used the sound system,” Obershaw said.
“The format has progressed rather rapidly,” Clark said. “We started to change the prizes to accommodate for more unique styles of presentation. We’ve had persona poetry, and we’ve also had rap now, we’ve had various songs, we’ve had instrumental, we’ve had poetry, we’ve had some prose reading, some professors have started to give more showcases and we’ve really just opened up to a plethora of creative content and it’s really evolving quickly.”
Clark said that there has been a growing number of people attending the Open Mic events this semester.
“We counted 40 persons in attendance for our opening of our first Open Mic of the season, so that was pretty incredible,” he said.
Both students and faculty said that they enjoy the Open Mic events.
"I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to hear each other and to hear themselves, which is crucial because you have to know what your own voice is. And I think learning how to read well makes you a better writer," Professor of English Bryan Dietrich said.
Junior Rooslana Rusk said that the events become better every time they are held.
"It’s quickly becoming a favorite in terms of campus events, at least among arts students, because we have a slightly bigger turnout every time we try something like this and it just shows that it reflects what we’re interested in as students and teachers," she said.
The prizes can be changed to accommodate the presentations since participants can choose to present from a variety of art forms.
“They will adapt as needed for designating prizes to whatever has been presented. It is kind of different every time, so the judges have to be ready,” Clark said.
Obershaw said that Crane-Laracuente arranges the sound system, the prizes, and the food and Obershaw and Clark create the themes for the events.
Obershaw said that coffee and pastries are provided for the audience members and participants.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I think Murphy and I make a great team,” Clark said.
“It was pretty intense, just considering the venue,” Clark said. “All the seats were filled and then there was overflow; people just standing into part way into the bookstore. I would hope for more, but if we got anymore than that, we might have to find a larger venue.”
Crane-Laracuente said that she would not be opposed to finding another venue if it were necessary. However, she would like to keep the atmosphere feeling cozy and safe.
“I think it definitely helps gain confidence because it is a safe place to put your work out there,” Obershaw said.
“The awards and the crowd are two influential factors that really make people strive to be creative and polished in their work and presentation,” Clark said. “Not only is it enjoyable for the artists and those who are listening and watching, but it’s also very productive and progressive for them.”
“It is vitally important that we continually engage with the arts, because if we do not, we will lose what it means to be human,” Clark said.
The last Open Mic event will take place at noon on Nov. 19 in the Newman Grind. There will be three events in the spring.
Crane-Laracuente said that she hopes the event will remain an event in which the community is involved.
“I hope that it is, howsoever small an event, something that is meaningful to everyone who participates in whatever way they wish and keep alive the idea that words matter and it’s important to share them with each other,” Crane-Laracuente said.
PHOTO: Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief.