The Fox Egg Gallery in Minneapolis was packed full of nearly a hundred queer identified individuals and allies on Wednesday, October 9th 2013. Nikolas Martell, wearing a shiny purple bandeau with matching green hotpants and black high heels, and Paul Canada with a shiny red robe and a pearl necklace walked to the stage to host the kick off to the first ever OUTspoken Queer Open Mic event. “We want this to be an inclusive space, respect that please.” Says Martell.
OUTspoken was started by Martell and Canada as an idea for an inclusive art space for queer identified individuals in the Twin Cities Area “Queer artists in the Twin Cities have needed this space for a really long time.” Says Renee Schminkey, the featured artist for the night’s event. The idea began when Martell and Canada were talking about ways they could “improve the community, bring the community together and find space for new voices.” One day Canada sent Martell a text message: ‘Queer open mic?’ to which Martell simply replied ‘Yes.’ and from there OUTspoken began to form together. “It became more tangible as it went along.” says Martell.
The set list for the night was full of a variety of 13 artists and mediums ranging from musical theatre, to slam poetry. Performers as well as audience members ranged in ages from seniors in high school to seniors, with many ethnic and racial backgrounds being represented. “I like hearing from people with different experiences.” Says college first year Aidan Feola, his friend
Some performances were humorous, others got very emotional, all of which was encouraged by audience members to keep sharing. Some stories were very intense, and lead to some to cry on stage “This is a safe space, but we believe this is also a real space.” says Martell. Whenever it looked like someone was about to try and give up their piece due to being emotional, or simply stuttering over their work, audience members shouted words of encouragement to performers. Canada called out after the third performer in a nun costume (one of the many costume changes Canada and Martell performed over the night) “We are in church right now! Can I get a Halleloo from the audience?” Audience member, Natalie Kaplan said she really enjoyed how “open and supportive the audience was.”
One of the things that made this open mic unique was that as each artist of the night was introduced, the hosts introduced their pronouns as well. Martell and Canada shared that in previous open mics they attended, transgender and genderqueer individuals would be mispronouned often before taking the stage. “It’s really crippling.” says Martell. Canada explained that in other open mic events “pronouns were not a thing that was discussed.” and with OUTspoken “Making sure we are validating was very important to us…. it’s a little disrespectful not even to ask.”
“The energy coming off this room has been spectacular all night.” says Martell towards the end of the night. Kate Bailey, owner of Fox Egg Gallery, addressed the audience before sharing their own work “There are people here who have performed on national stages, you don’t have to be here, but this is community.”
The next OUTspoken event will take place on Wednesday, November 13th at the Fox Egg Gallery 3730 Chicago Avenue S. , Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407, Doors open at 7:00pm. All are welcome.
(Photo Courtesy of Kate Bailey of Fox Egg Gallery.)