By Amirose Eisenbach

Every artist needs a venue to share their passion and insight with the audience. Santa Cruz is an artistically vibrant community, and many groups and organizations have put in considerable efforts to try to create epicenters for like-minded artists and art appreciators to connect. One of the most popular outlets for Santa Cruz artists are the open-mic nights that are so prevalent downtown. Open-mic nights provide a way to gain a perspective into the fervor and enthusiasm of the local artists who help form the rich composition of Santa Cruz life. Among the many open-mic hotspots are three in particular-The Hide Gallery, Firefly Coffee House, and E3 Playhouse-which promote the arts regardless of medium, and provide the canvas for local artists to present their work. *The Hide*131 Front St.The Hide and Low End Artique puts on an open-mic night every Thursday at 8 p.m. The Hide features two local artists’ work every month, including everything from photography to massive canvases, so the addition of an open-mic night to The Hide adds yet another facet of art to the already diverse gallery.Joe Hencke, Adrian Rasmussen and Jennifer Pond are responsible for founding and running The Hide. The trio has worked to make their venue an eclectic and inviting space for artists and audience."All presentations are welcome, but we attempt to offer an open-mic for people who don’t usually go to them," Hencke said. "Our space has great acoustics, and it usually turns into a jam-oriented scene with different participators just collaborating and making music together." *The Firefly Coffee House*135 Laurel St.The Firefly Coffee House, which will move next door to The Hide in November, offers a different take on the open-mic idea. Brian Morrisey and Christopher Robin host and direct "Wired Poets" Fridays at 7:30 p.m, where established names in poetry like A.D. Winans and Neeli Cherkovski have been among the participants at the small venue. Hugh Fox will read his poetry Oct. 27.Jorge Castro, a classical guitarist who plays at Firefly, thinks that Firefly has differentiated itself from other venues by focusing its open-mic nights more narrowly."There aren’t too many open-mic nights out there that really emphasize poetry, especially from all over the country," Castro said.
Megan Murray, a worker and poet at the Firefly, believes that the venue has been successful by making its patrons so comfortable.
"We create such a homey and urban feel here," Murray said. "It’s more acceptable for anyone to sing, read, and perform anything here than perhaps in other places. It’s a very safe and special feeling and environment." *E3 Playhouse*435 Front St.The E3 Playhouse is a bit more sophisticated than other open-mic venues, and seems to be aimed at a somewhat older audience. The workers there described how E3 has transformed into a "social arts center," complete with poetry nights, dance lessons, and live music in addition to the Monday night open-mic performances (5-9 p.m.).Wes Anthony, owner and founder of E3 Playhouse, has created yet another type of atmosphere for the open-mic scene. "We have the best sound system in Anthony said. "We’ve been doing this for six months now, and it’s kind of progressed from a typical open-mic into a sort of singer/songwriter showcase." Whatever your particular artistic interest may be, there is a venue to satisfy your needs.Despite differences in focus, all three of these locations attempt to connect people through the arts. So maybe it’s time to take a risk and share your passion with your peers. After all, you’re only among friends.For more information, visit: