Open Mic: A Community Center for the Los Angeles Community

Open Mic: A Community Center for the Los Angeles Community

For a break from City Hall toxicity, try an open mic in Tarzana

By David Kiely

April 10, 2016 – 2:49pm

Tarzana is a short drive from South Los Angeles, but you won’t find the small town on the sprawling San Gabriel Mountain range in a movie. The Tarzana Civic Center is a stately brick building on Main Street with a tall, glass-topped, dome-like roof, designed not as a courtroom or a courthouse, but as a civic museum, where you can hold your own open mic, a cultural event for the Los Angeles community.

“I wanted to open up my studio as a community center,” says Jennifer Laughlin, who lives in Altadena.

She was inspired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the city’s largest museum, but decided that “I could do something more local and my own style.”

The idea was so radical that some people laughed at it. “It’s like the old adage about open mic: you can’t take it seriously,” admits Laughlin, who has done other events like a poetry reading series.

So why am I here?

My friend, the owner at the coffee shop, says he didn’t expect anyone to come until early afternoon, when we’ve all arrived. When we arrive he takes my hat, puts it in the bucket of water near the door.

“Take this, I want to hear what you have.”

He begins a series of poems about his family and the history of the neighborhood that took him three hours to write. They were the kind of poems that would be published in literary magazines like Prairie Schooner or Blue Iris. He was a local boy, but had always lived on the West Side of San Francisco, he says. One of his poems was about the neighborhood.

It’s sunny and clear, and there’s a light breeze, but

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