Spoken word artist Nick Courmon said he feels like he can "let his hair down" at Orange County Arts Commission's Weave & Spin open mic night.
Started by poet Morrow Dowdle in January 2023, the monthly event encourages poets and artists from all levels to share their raw and personal work.
During his featured performance earlier this month, Courmon said the space allowed him to focus more on his storytelling and explore a new way of delivering his pieces. The pieces touched on subjects from his childhood and time as a community organizer as well as his advocacy for wrongfully incarcerated individuals.
Dowdle was inspired to host Weave & Spin when they noticed that a lot of the open mics they attended were oriented toward an older, white and cisgender crowd. They wanted to create an event that was more inclusive and catered to a diverse audience and readers.
To make space for speakers from all levels, Weave & Spin is split into two parts — a scheduled performance and an open mic for the general public.
Featured performances often last 30-45 minutes, which, according to Dowdle, is much longer than the amount of time allotted at other open mics. They said they found huge value in bringing the featured artists into the public eye.
“[The performances showcase] people who have accomplishments in their field, who can be an inspiration or a source of learning for the audience," Dowdle said. "And then I also really enjoy how that kind of sets the tone for the open mic that follows."
Dowdle said that they try to bring in a level of warmth to the poetry readings to establish an environment where speakers are comfortable to share personal topics.
“I think we just create the intention and the atmosphere grew from that, because we've had so many people who have come who had never been to an open mic before who read poetry — and they've never written poetry before, much less read it — and sometimes it is about very explicit trauma that they've experienced.” Dowdle said. “And, they've shared how somehow it felt like an environment to them where they could do that.”