Saturday, January 20, 2018

A space for the arts


IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Christopher Naranjit during a performance at a recent Open Up! event. —Photos courtesy DZ Photoz

Mark Fraser

Poets, storytellers, dramatists, singers, comedians, instrumentalists and other up and coming artistes in all areas of the arts, from all over the country who are largely seen as “underground” artistes, are benefiting from a forum where they can “open up” their talent in a unique platform.  

Feli Renwrick-Risbrooke’s vision to create a space for artistes has provided  the perfect platform through a series of events called “Open Up!”,  where artistes of all ages and backgrounds are regularly spotlighted and given an opportunity to not only showcase their talents but also to interact with other like-minded individuals in the arts and reach newer audiences.  

After being exposed to open mics such as Speak Easy, Songshine, One Mic, OPEN and others, Feli understands that such support is necessary for the development of artistes.  Feli continues to champion the cause of many up and coming artistes—over 2,000 of them who are part of the Open Up! group. After most of the popular Open Mic forums had ceased Feli wrestled with the idea of having an Open Mic of her own and after sharing her vision with Cayce Chandleur from Veni Mange Restaurant she was offered Veni Mange as a complimentary venue. Open Up! is a  non-profit initiative, paying homage to a past open mic OPEN in the event name (Open Up!), where anyone can express  their gifts through poetry, music, song, dance, art, comedy, skits, etc. Contributions received from generous patrons are distributed equally to the performers. Each session of Open Up! usually spotlights at least 30 performers.

While Open Up! allows individuals to be spotlighted for their talent it also promotes charity through regular food and clothing drives. Open Up! is staged on the last Friday of each month at IMAX located at One Woodbrook Place, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (largely for youths) and usually the second Thursday in each month at Veni Mange Restaurant on Ariapita Avenue and 7 p.m to midnight (for adult content 18 years and over).

Feli explained: “It was my impromptu performance at an event at Veni Mange Restaurant and my casual conversation about creating my own open mic with Cayce Chandleur which prompted her generous offer for Open Up! to be held at Veni Mange. This was divine Intervention, because Veni Mange was also the home for the Speak Easy open mic event. A need for such an open forum was realised from my awareness that there were so many talented people in our country that could be showcased at local events and weren’t. I purchased some basic studio equipment out-of-pocket and with the love and support of family and friends I got started.” 

She added: “I have a strong appreciation for Past Open Mic’s such as Songshine by Gillian Moor, Speak Easy by Dara Njeri and Corinne Gray, and Open by Fiona Thomas and Jade Campbell, and present Open Mic’s such as One Mic by Kyle Skeeto Amos, which all existed long before Open Up! These open mic events have always encouraged freedom of artistic expressions and paved the way for Open Up!  which pays homage to “Open” in the name of this initiative called Open Up! It is a forum where anyone who has anything to express in any form whether music, song, dance, artwork, comedy, skits etcetera can do so and get paid. Prior to Open Up! the artistes craved forums for open expressions. Everyone is extremely grateful to all involved in satisfying this craving as we have not only been afforded a venue for expression, to be scouted and to share, but an “Open Up!” family has been built with over 2,000 individuals who are part of the group,” Feli said. 

Feli remembers the first event —only a handful of individuals responded to the call. Open up is a one-woman show and back then Feli found it very challenging to advertise and get support in the beginning. As word spread, the support grew tremendously as people were eager to showcase their talent and also be among other artistes. Feli has since developed a proactive approach to ensure the smooth and effective running of the event.  She said her passion and love for the arts is what keeps her going even when she is tired.

Feli said the quantity of supporters of Open Up! has grown from the initial handful to over 30 performers and over 100 supporters at any single event. Through the Open Up! initiative, some artistes have been scouted and featured at major events, and have even inspired countless others in many ways. Other open mic forums have since evolved such as True Talk No Lie by Yvan Mendoza.  

“The joy of seeing other people happy, loved, and feeling that they are accepted, and the whole atmosphere of creativity, is what keeps me going. It’s just a real refreshing environment. People come from all over the place even from other countries. Last month we had an opera singer.  I have been very blessed. A lot of people have started giving now because they are in an environment with a lot of giving and sharing. A lot of great friendships have been made.  Some people have been inspired to take their talent to the next level and have had opportunities opened to them. Everyone is always expressing their appreciation for Open Up! through constant thank you’s and small tokens but instead of saying you’re welcome, I constantly respond thank you in return because without their love and support this initiative would not be the success it is today,” Feli said.  

Feel free to join the Open Up! group on facebook where you will be notified of the next Open Up! event.