When activism meets art, the issues at hand are no longer abstract political ideas or mere talking points on clipboards. Instead, they become something more humanized and relatable.
Artists at Tuesday Night Cafe (TNC), a volunteer-run event put on by Tuesday Night Project, take this to heart, using the community space to express themselves. TNC is currently the longest running Asian American open mic in the country, heading into its 18th year in 2016.
Although images commonly associated with activism are outspoken individuals with megaphones, crowds of protestors and signed petitions, at the heart of activism is allowing oneself to experience vulnerability, exercise empathy and validate people’s experiences, says Quincy Surasmith, the Associate Producer and Communications Manager for the Tuesday Night Project.
TNC was recognized by several publications, including LA Weekly, as the “Best Free Downtown Performance Series.” It takes place at 7:30 p.m. the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, from April through October, at the Aratani Courtyard/Union Center for the Arts. Community members pack the courtyard, leaving standing-room only, to watch a curated lineup as well as randomly selected open mic performers.
The reasons for which Tuesday Night Cafe was started — to vitalize the Little Tokyo community with a free public arts series, to allow Asian Americans to come together and collaborate across art forms — keeps it relevant with the latest generation of the Asian/ Pacific Islander community, which welcomes those from other backgrounds with open arms.
July is the fundraising month for the #KeepTNFree campaign — the goal is $12,000 dollars for a year’s worth of programming. It has been sustained by volunteers and donations from the community, in addition to some grants, but no corporate sponsorships.
Today, it remains a space to highlight new and original work; it is not so much a showcase as it is a gathering space for the community, bringing together both veterans and first-timers to enjoy Tuesday evenings filled with music and art.