A student club hosts open mic nights to celebrate artistic expression

Written by Nathan Reid-Welford

“Welcome to Quest’s Open Mic,” Taps, the creative outreach coordinator at Redeemer University says, introducing the first performer.  

The lights dim. Cool blue mixed with a tinge of white, washes over the stage. Chalk shines off the blackboard backdrop, the word Quest and the next submission deadline illuminated. The artist reaches for the mic. A voice flutters into the rec centre, weaving a creative web of personal thoughts, contemplations, observations, hardships, and good memories.

The audience of about 35 people watches attentively. Core contributors to semester magazine editions. Supportive friends. Curious minds investigating what happens here when the house lights are dashed. A few alumni, experiencing the culture we set in motion just before their time at Redeemer expired. 

The artist steps off the stage amid applause. Another person picks up where they left off. 

One by one, audience members approach me. 

I want to perform.

I smile. That’s great. 

I sort of wrote a poem I’d like to read.

Another. I’ve never spoken at an open mic, but I’ll give it a try.

Awesome. This is the place to do it.

The night continues, but inside the rec centre time stands still. Amplified soundwaves circulate the space, swirling like messengers, searching for ears to pique with curiosity. To draw them in and gather the community around to experience this expression of creative arts.

Quest is Redeemer’s Creative Arts club. We produce a magazine based on a biblical theme that features student work every semester. From poetry to photography, monologues to visual arts, the magazines are a collection of the student body’s creativity.

The goal is to give every student the opportunity to tap into their creative potential, grow their confidence, find and create community with other artists, and provide a platform for their work.

The club is a way for students to express the creativity God has given each of us, allowing others to receive and celebrate their work.

As I sit at the back of the rec centre, I remember an email I received two summers ago when I was offered the position of club leader. I nearly turned it down. Doubts, excuses, and concerns rambled through my brain and I started typing my polite decline. Then I stopped, shut my computer, and thought about it. 

I look at the stage where a performer reads a poem to the captivated audience. I glance at the professional-looking magazines placed on tables. I’m glad now that I paused. I’m glad I said yes.

Alongside releasing the magazine editions, we decided to launch the open mic nights. These events have grown into a closely-knit, supportive, and inspiring community. I love seeing people step out of their comfort zone and build their confidence. Glorifying God by showcasing Christian artists and the gifts he has given them. 

The team that started this new vision has already graduated or will graduate this spring. As I keep my eyes on the stage, I start to feel doubt creep in again. What’s next? Will the club keep going?

I stop myself. I continue looking at the stage and the occupied seats around the room. We answered God’s call on our hearts. And He provided. As I scan the place I see Taps, Avigail, Madison, Alexander, Terell, and Rebecca. The team He put in our path to equip so that they can continue to expand the club and listen to the call on their hearts to show their faith and bring people together.

Isn’t that part of the mission? The calling? The quest? Not just for a university club. Not just for artists or students. But for Christians. Everywhere and anywhere.

As Taps retakes the stage and thanks everyone for joining us, the house lights come on. I stand up and join in the applause. 

Nathan Reid-Welford has been the administrative head of Quest for the past two years. He will graduate in May 2024 with an English writing major and business and history minors.