For Michele McDannold, hosting an open stage event that allows local artists to showcase their work just makes sense. Her love of art in its many forms inspired her to begin Legit AF, a monthly reading series at the Uptown Artist Lofts in Michigan City. At the events, a featured artist is brought in to showcase their work alongside a variety of local talent.
“Now that I live here in the arts base I have a venue at my availability so I decided to try out a monthly open mic and featured readers,” Michele commented when asked about why she started the event. “I met a lot of poets and writers through my own writing and publishing, so I think it’s important to the artistic community at large to mix it up.”
The series began in June of 2016 at the Uptown Artists Lofts. The building itself was renovated with the arts in mind, transforming from a six-story office building into a 44 unit apartment complex complete with studio and commercial use spaces. The building is located along Franklin Street in an area of Michigan City focusing on an artistic revival.
The Legit AF series is wrapping up its final months, but has served as a way for local talent to express themselves alongside published writers. Ryder Collins, the featured reader for the month of April, has a multitude of published pieces including her book, Homegirl!, two poetry chapbooks, and a fiction chapbook titled The Way the Sky was Now. Collins read alongside local artists who brought their poetry, short stories, and rap music. The venue allows any creative work that can be performed or presented in front of a group, guaranteeing the event to be unique from the month before.
The artists covered a variety of subject matter as they took turns onstage. The first poet read work relating to race and gender. The second volunteer from the crowd, Carol, read from a story she’d been writing expressing that “2017 has already been a year of real events, so this is what came to me.” Her short story focused on adoption and finding closure after many years of separation. The final artist performed a few original rap songs and elicited a chuckle from the crowd as he began his final performance, “if you can guess this sample, I’ll give you a thumbs up.”
When asked what value the event brings to the area Michele said, “I think the different perspectives and intelligent meanderings are invaluable, especially in an area that is trying to grow the arts. You need to have all the arts, mixing them together.” While the event will only be continuing for three more months, August will bring a weekend- long literary festival to the area which will feature poetry and another open stage event.