By: Genevieve Fox
This article was originally published on the Spartan News Room
A local group is giving artists in the Lansing area a chance to showcase their talents.
The Artist’s Umbrella provides space for poets, musicians, dancers, comedians and other artist to perform in front of an audience. The group hosts regular open-mic-style events while connecting artists to work on their craft.
Executive Director Brandon Navin said the Artist’s Umbrella, established in June 2019, hosts one main event and one open mic a month. Recently the organization started hosting artist showcases at the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art in Lansing’s Old Town.
“I just called my friends and I was like, ‘Hey do you guys wanna do something?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah OK cool,’ and then it has just snowballed into this burgeoning, blossoming arts organization,” Navin said.
Navin said the organization does more than just showcase local artists. It helps them in their process of building themselves.
“We never turn an artist away,” Navin said. “But when artists come to us they go through a vetting process. They are ranked in green, yellow and red. Green would mean they need more work, yellow would mean you’re probably ready for like a pop-up or an open mic, and then red means you’re ready for the stage.”
Navin said when an artist is listed as green, the group connects them with other artists to work together and help better their craft. He said every show is $20, and to offer quality content, they must make sure all artists who perform are prepared.
“We’ll pull them under our wing, we’ll love on them, show them encouragement, support, and help them try and develop their craft,” Navin said.
Navin said events hosted by the Artist’s Umbrella have been described by audience members as mini festivals or church. He said the group allows people to experience art in their own way.
Emily Dievendorf said the Artist’s Umbrella has given her an opportunity to share her poems in a safe environment.
“I sign up for events like this knowing I will be terrified for weeks prior,” Dievendorf said. “I will keep going with my daily life and be writing in my head, and be scratching things on paper and then when we finally get to the point of doing this you throw yourself up there. Then when you’re done, you just know you are capable of so much more than you thought you were before.”
She describes performing as a validating boost of courage, and said her truth is worth more than the fear others and herself might feel.
“We need more programs like this where it’s less about competition and more about growth, and more about encouraging the new poets, the new artist, the new storytellers to learn and work with each other and find their voice,” Dievendorf said.
Attendee Anna Zander said she wants this organization to be more known in the community.
“It’s this really awesome event for local artists to come and showcase their talents,” Zander said. “I wish more people would come and learn about it. It deserves to be known.”
Navin said there are exciting plans for the organization.
“I get goosebumps when I talk about this,” Navin said. “We will have a traveling component where we go to different cities and present the Artist’s Umbrella template. We get artists from other cities, plug them into our template and have shows in other cities.”
Navin said the group will have its own space opening where artists can perform, and an incubator where they can train and develop upcoming talent.