Gean Velveteen first had the idea to organize an open mic while she was living in Nashville. She’d seen man after man ascend the stage and sing a song or two about a woman he loved or once loved or wished he could love. And Velveteen – a stage name to protect her government name and her government career – would wonder what the woman had to say about it. And so, in November of 2017 the Muse’s Mouth was born.
The Muse’s Mouth is a woman-centered spoken word open mic series that is welcoming of artists who are female-identifying or non-binary. It started in Nashville, but when Velveteen moved to Louisville, she decided to keep it going. While Nashville’s scene was more music-oriented, Velveteen has found Louisville’s to be more about slam poetry. The city has been home to spoken word poet Rheonna Nicole’s “Lipstick Wars” since 2015, which was already working to raise up women on the mic. So, Velveteen said the city felt like a good home for a spoken word open mic for women.
It was the #metoo movement that made it clear to Velveteen the necessity of an open mic that makes women feel safe enough to share their stories. She’d seen the hashtag everywhere, but wasn’t hearing many women sharing their personal stories around trauma.
“Sometimes, I don’t feel comfortable getting on an open mic and talking about that stuff especially if there’s a guy that’s going to come on right afterward to talk about an ex-girlfriend. It seemed like we needed our own space,” Velveteen said.
But she said the Muse’s Mouth is more than just a chance for women to tell their most vulnerable stories.
“It’s kind of nice to have something outside of an actual therapy session where you’re building a community and you have women who support you and they’ve been through it too,” she said.
There are generally four readers at each open mic. Velveteen is highly supportive of first-timers; “Bring whatever you’ve got,” she said.
The Muse’s Mouth is a relaxed environment, low-pressure, cozy and intimate. And while men won’t be invited up to the mic, they are welcome to attend and listen. The series is currently bi-monthly with plans to move to monthly this winter with a few surprise locations in the works. But the Tim Faulkner Gallery will remain its home location. Velveteen enjoys the symbolism of holding her open mic surrounded by art and finds that it “contributes to the atmosphere.” And as the Muse’s Mouth gives women the stage at an actual art gallery, she’s also found herself thinking about how often women are featured in great works of art in museums, but that artwork created by women isn’t as well-represented.
The next event is at the Tim Faulkner Gallery Sunday, August 11th from 6 PM to 8 PM (21+). The show is free, but donations will be collected on behalf of the Center for Women and Families. To learn about future events, visit the group’s Facebook page.