NEWS: Big changes for Artsville Open Mic

A word from our founder.

I spent my birthday in 2011 hosting the first Artsville Open Mic. This should give you some indication of how dear this event has been to my heart from the beginning. So each time we make a big change to Open Mic it is not without careful thought and deliberation.

That being said, I'm excited to announce two big changes today. I'll explain each one in detail below:

  1. Artsville Open Mic is moving venues. Beginning Monday, May 4, we're moving the event to Crema Coffee Bar, located at 136 W Carolina Ave in Hartsville.
  2. Artsville Open Mic is now The Artsville Songwriting Competition (ASC). We're officially retiring the name "Artsville Open Mic". From now on these 10 monthly events along with the annual event in November will be known as "The Artsville Songwriting Competition", or "ASC".

About the venue change.

The Midnight Rooster is arguably the reason that I moved to Hartsville in the first place. I've enjoyed a close personal relationship with the original owner, Jessie Avant Smith, and I've known the new owner, Suzanne Galloway for years. I even worked at The Rooster as a server for years. I've played the stage several times and hold many fond memories of this business close to my heart.

After I left Hartsville for Brooklyn Artsville faced many challenges as an organization, but none more challenging than the Open Mic. How do you run a monthly songwriting competition from 700 miles away? How do you effectively promote it, organize volunteers, communicate your vision to all involved, and continually improve the overall quality of the event? These were the questions I faced as a leader.

It's very difficult to pinpoint the root causes of problems. After listening to feedback from volunteers, our venue, and performers alike this much became clear, our Open Mic event was suffering. Something needed to change. We needed to try new things.

Around the time we were examining these issues is when Crema Coffee Bar, a new coffee shop in Hartsville, was set to open. The owner, Tiffany Moan, and I have an established relationship, and she was actually one of the first to offer constructive feedback on the Open Mic once I had left Hartsville.

Last week I made a difficult phone call to Suzanne Galloway, the new owner of The Midnight Rooster. We discussed the state of the Open Mic and eventually came to a mutual agreement that it was time for a change. She was incredibly gracious to me, and offered her full support of my decision to move the event, wishing both Artsville and Crema all the success in the world. Her sentiment meant so much to me, as it was clear that she, as I do, hold fast to the belief that there is enough to go around. "I want my customers to have options in this city," she told me. It was clear from our conversation that Suzanne believes that people are always the priority, and this means the world to me. I'm confident The Rooster will remain our friend even as we move in a different direction. In my view it is impossible to overstate the cultural impact this business has had on our community.

To Suzanne, Jessie and Jeremy, and every dishwasher, barista, server, cook, and office worker who helped with Artsville events over the years at The Rooster: we love you, we thank you, and we pray for years of continued success.

About the name change.

Last week while discussing the Open Mic with a friend of mine in Brooklyn, I had a revelation. Since our founding, we have always used the names "Artsville Open Mic" and "The Artsville Songwriting Competition" to basically describe the same thing.

My friend pointed out to me that many folks associate the words "Open Mic" with an image along the lines of this: someone on stage half-heartedly singing "Folsom Prison Blues" to a room full of disinterested passers-by. However, in my mind I saw a compelling night of creativity and friendly competition, young and established artists alike exploring their craft and upping the ante for a chance to grab a spot in a fabulous annual songwriting competition (and maybe even win $1,000!).

It was clear we needed to reconcile these two pictures. It was also clear that Artsville Open Mic was, in effect, the first round of The Artsville Songwriting Competition. So why were we calling it something different? That's just confusing!

So from now on the event formerly known as "Artsville Open Mic" will be "The Artsville Songwriting Competition" or "ASC". It will still happen every month. It's still free to watch, $5 to enter. The big annual event in November will be known as "The Finals".

Thank you for taking the time to read these updates. We hope to see you at the next ASC, Monday, May 4 at Crema Coffee Bar in downtown Hartsville. Please tell us how we're doing. We greatly value your candid feedback.

And as always, thanks for trying new things.

Dylan Sneed, Founder

Artsville's next new thing: Bridges (NY)

A word from our founder.

I don't often speak or write in the first person on this site. In fact, I've used the pronoun "we" for years now when talking about Artsville. But truth be told, as far as a business goes, I am the sole employee of this "company," if that's what you want to call it. Still, I've always had a sense that Artsville is far bigger than me: my ideas, feelings, preferences, and vision.

As some of you know, in late 2013 I left Hartsville, SC (the birthplace of Artsville) and moved to New York City. On the surface you could easily view these two cities as practically antithetical. I wouldn't blame you. One is home to about 8,000 people, the other to about 8 million. You can drive across one in about 12 minutes. The other in about an hour and 12 minutes. But even after having lived here for almost a year I can't shake the sense that the two places have something in common. Perhaps many things.

It's out of this persistent belief that our newest series, Bridges, was born. It's a name that New Yorkers can certainly relate to. Get on any roof out here and look in most any direction and you'll probably see a bridge. Maybe even a couple. They connect the people in these five boroughs that make up this massive metroplex.

Our mission is to catalyze the innate creativity in all of us. Essentially, to turn us on to what is already inside us. We're going to do this in Bridges by connecting an audience to a performer, and hopefully connecting the audience to one another as well. It's not often in a place like this that you get a chance to sit down, get quiet, and just listen. So that's what we're going to do. Admittedly, the concept is vague at this point, but we feel good about this. It allows our artists to develop unique ways to connect with their audience.

If there's anything that I've learned as we've developed this new series it's that I simply can't do this alone. I can take Artsville only so far by myself. This revelation, while probably obvious to many of you, was important for me to internalize. I've realized the value of volunteers and friends helping out for a while now, but what's taking place with Bridges is something more. I'm surrendering the vision of the project to others. This is new territory for me, and I have to admit it scares me sometimes. But ultimately I'm so grateful to be growing, to be, myself, fundamentally changed by our mission. Like I said, this is far bigger than me.

Many of you reading this are probably not living in New York City, but there's a good chance you know someone who is. I hope you'll direct them to our site and invite them to the show. By the way, it's on Saturday, October 11 and features one of my new favorite songwriters, Chris Q. Murphy. Check out the All Artsville Events page to watch a video.

I want to end this post with the most sincere, heartfelt thank-you I can muster to our precious volunteers. Without you this entire year of Artsville events would simply have been impossible. More than a few times this year I have been moved to tears as photos, tweets, and Facebook posts come in praising your hard work. Our most recent house concert artists, The Honey Dewdrops, simply said, "It was the most well-organized house concert we've ever played." I am so grateful for each of you.

If you'd like to join our volunteer team, please check out the Volunteer page.

We still have a few amazing events left in 2014, so please check out the calendar and buy your tickets (these things tend to sell out). 2015 is going to be even better.

Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for trying new things.


Just confirmed: Hiroya Tsukamoto @ AHC - 3.21.14

Hiroya Tsukamoto is a guitarist and composer originally from Kyoto, Japan. He began playing banjo when he was thirteen years old. In 2000, he received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and came to the US. Since then, he has been performing internationally including several appearances with his group at Blue Note in New York and released five albums as a leader. He recently performed on Japanese National TV program (NHK-TV). Hiroya has developed unique acoustic music which is sometimes described as "Cinematic acoustic music"