On Tues., Feb. 28th the Phyllis Straus Gallery held a performance show titled “Open” to encourage college students to embrace self-expression, especially through the arts. The event primarily focused on Poetry and Prose, and featured 13 different performers reading their pieces to a room full of people.
The performance took the shape of an open mic night. However, upon entering the event, the audience was welcomed with pieces of original poetry, submitted by college students, on the walls. Just by one glance at a poem, the reason behind the name “Open” seemed to make sense; it was about creating a safe space for students to share their most intimate thoughts, in a way, opening themselves to the public. The idea behind the art show showed great significance, especially in a college town like Tallahassee. You see, we are conditioned to not share our feelings and bottle everything inside, and, when a bottle becomes full, it tends to break. The Phyllis Strauss Gallery acknowledged this and encouraged students to communicate themselves through creative outlets. In one night and in one room, they offered a support system that proved that we are never truly alone and most importantly, that we do not have to deal with our hardships by ourselves.
“Open” displayed all kinds of poems. Some were funny, where authors talked about first loves and know-it-alls, better known as “Fact Boys,” nicknamed by writer Kelley Cunningham, and, some were honest, where they spoke of heartaches and loss. Meanwhile, all pieces of work were powerful. A specific piece by Elton Burgest named “Rebel”, told the story of Gordon, an African-American slave who escaped and became a visual representation of the brutality of slavery.
“I repel their oppression rebel in aggression the scars on my back may heal but my pain no my strength is eternal. I never settled. I was born a REBEL.” The poem by Elton Burgest read.
Aside from being displayed on the white walls of the gallery, Burgest also read his poem to the crowd. It was then that the audience felt the true weight of his words.
The Phyllis Straus Gallery is a space for students to explore themselves through innovations, experiments and other artistic activities. The gallery frequently holds different exhibits and are always looking for students to submit their work. For the show “Open”, they were particularly looking for any work that “stretched the mind.” To our surprise, for most of the performers reading it was actually their first time. However, they spoke with such conviction and passion that it was impossible to notice. The gallery encourages students to challenge themselves and take a chance. This is a unique opportunity that has a lot to offer for students and no experience is required. If this is something that interests you, feel free to like the Phyllis Straus Gallery on Facebook to remain updated. Whether it is to submit your work or support local art, check out them out and their events!