A new program from PenMet Parks aimed at Gig Harbor teens originates from someone who understands the demographic well: a fellow teenager.
Sophia Folz, 13, is the inspiration for the new Teen Open Mic, hosted by PenMet Parks.
The idea began during a conversation with her mother, Alexandra, about how Sophia could make friends and perform some of her music and poetry.
“We were thinking: ‘How could we find a place where Sophia could be herself and do the things she loves?’” Alexandra said. “There just hasn’t been something for different teen artists in Gig Harbor. Where are teens getting an opportunity to get together through art and stage work?”
Alexandra introduced Sophia to the concept of an open mic — a popular theme in adult venues — and the pair approached Jess Smiley, recreation specialist for PenMet Parks, who they knew through the organization’s theatre program.
There just hasn’t been something for different teen artists in Gig Harbor...Where are teens getting an opportunity to get together through art and stage work?
Alexandra Folz, co-host
Smiley had been budgeted $10,000 by PenMet to provide a year-long program for Gig Harbor teens, with the understanding that the program would be offered for free and would not be self-sustaining.
“It’s unsustainable to ask teens to pay for their own programming,” Smiley said. “I really wanted something once a month for teens to come together.”
The open mic suggestion from Sophia and Alexandra, who is volunteering her time to co-direct the program, fit with the type of programming that Smiley wanted to offer to Gig Harbor teens.
“I found that idea very inspiring,” she said. “I think Gig Harbor is quite lacking in any recreational opportunities for teens and what we do have is very much sports oriented.”
While Smiley feels that sports are important, she also looks to encourage young artists and give them a chance to become familiar and comfortable performing their work on stage.
“Artists are such a hard group,” she said. “We’re working hard to have an atmosphere that young new artists emerging from their shell can feel comfortable and welcome.”
I think Gig Harbor is quite lacking in any recreational opportunities for teens and what we do have is very much sports oriented.
Jess Smiley, PenMet recreation specialist
Alexandra agreed: “It would be great for them to be a community. Kind of building a teen community through art.”
Sophia said this program is something similar to what she’d been looking for in Gig Harbor — a chance to connect and make friends with other teens who enjoy art.
“In Gig Harbor there’s not a lot of groups that have people working on art together,” the teenager said. “I thought that would be a good idea for a group of people to come together and share art.”
The open mic will is a free event for teens ages 13 to 18 who are welcome to perform their art, from dancing to singing, playing an instrument to reading poetry or other writing. While performers are limited in age, there will be no age limit for the audience for anyone wishing to come and support family or friends.
An audience code — Listen, Unplug tech, Honor and Serve — will help provide a supportive and encouraging environment for teens to test their performance chops, Smiley said.
“We’re trying to really have an audience who really gives their total support and encouragement,” she said. “We’re trying to make it this great atmosphere for artists and teens.”
It’s an open place for any teens who want to go there..Nobody should feel pressured. It’s a nice safe environment for people to come and start off and get comfortable sharing their stuff.
The open mic will be held on the last Friday of every month beginning at 7 p.m. and finishing up by 9 p.m.
Interested teen performers will need to contact Smiley by the Wednesday before the open mic to sign up for performances. During winter months the open mic will be held at Rosedale Hall — which is owned by PenMet — and in the summer will meet at the Sehmel Park outdoor amphitheater.
Each open mic will feature a headliner band which will perform a short concert at the end of the performance sessions.
For Sophia — who, in addition to her poetry, sings and plays both the violin and mandolin — the supportive environment is important.
“It’s an open place for any teens who want to go there,” she said. “Nobody should feel pressured. It’s a nice safe environment for people to come and start off and get comfortable sharing their stuff.”
For more information or to find performer registration, visit facebook.com/OMforteenartists.
Teen Open Mic
The first open mic will begin at 7 p.m. on April 29 at Rosedale Hall, 8205 86th Ave. NW in Gig Harbor