Creative 360 Art Speaks Festival to showcase work from local poets and playwrights

A new festival coming to Midland this summer will provide local poets and playwrights a unique opportunity to have their work read or performed to the public.

Midland arts hub Creative 360 is seeking original poetry and play submissions for its Art Speaks festival, scheduled for June 5-6, 2021.

Contest categories include poems, 10-minute plays, one-act plays, and full-length plays. All submitted works must originate from Michigan residents and have never been published or professionally performed. The submission deadline is May 3 at noon.

All entries will be provided to jurists anonymously to ensure fairness. A panel of three jurists with expertise in either poetry or theater will read and evaluate each entry.

“We know that we have a lot of writers, poets and playwrights who are looking not just for an opportunity to write but also for an opportunity to present their work on stage,” says Creative 360 executive director Laura Vosejpka. “We thought we are the perfect place to do that because we have a small, intimate stage where even new writers who are just starting to explore the genre would feel comfortable.”

Laura Vosejpka is the executive director of Creative 360.
Art Speaks will take place entirely outdoors at Creative 360, located on Bayliss Street in Midland. There will be poetry readings, 10-minute play performances, and an awards ceremony scheduled for the first day, June 5. Saturday’s lineup will conclude with a staging of the first-place winner’s full-length play. Selected one-act plays will take the stage on Sunday.

Creative 360 hopes that the festival will bring together playwrights and poets with members of the thriving local theatrical community. The arts center is currently reaching out to area directors, who will be responsible for assembling their own team of actors and support staff.

“A great way of learning and watching your material grow is by seeing it live and seeing how people interpret it,” says Creative 360 office manager Laura Brigham. “We thought it would be a cool way to give the theatrical community something to work on and for writers to see their work on its feet.”

Including a diverse grouping of writers, directors, and performers in the event is in line with Creative 360’s goal to make the arts accessible to everyone. The center’s leadership firmly believes that participation in the creative process should not be age-dependent or ability-dependent.

“We’re always thinking of ways to bring new people in who haven’t experienced the arts before,” explains Vosejpka. “Everyone should feel comfortable coming to Creative 360 and trying something new and feeling that they’re successful at it. Our mission is open, fun, free, and supportive experimentation in the arts.”

Creative 360 is located on Bayliss Street in MIdland.Creative 360 makes a continued effort to provide new and unique programming to the area. Vosejpka reports the organization is always looking for community suggestions and signs of interest in programs that are a bit different from those already available. The center has relaunched its in-person Cocktails and Canvas and Kids and Canvas events with social distancing and will again be hosting its popular old-time radio shows.

Other upcoming events include a virtual class on writing fantasy and science fiction and a free yin yoga class on Thursday nights with donations going to a different charity each month. Musical concerts are back on stage as well after a long pandemic-induced pause.  Creative 360 has kept its schedule fluid so that it has the flexibility to bring in larger audiences as social distancing regulations loosen. 

“We try to fill gaps,” says Vosejpka. “If there is interest in the community in something new or a little different, whether that’s a historical program or new art form to learn or a different kind of music, we’re always on the lookout for those things and we love it when the community makes suggestions.”

The arts center is currently in need of volunteers for painting buildings and maintaining gardens, as well as for an upcoming community mural project. Other volunteer opportunities will likely arise during preparations for the Art Speaks festival. Up-to-date calls for volunteers and supplies will appear in Creative 360‘s weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

To submit work for the Art Speaks festival, visit this webpage. Updates on the festival and ways to get involved will post on Creative 360’s website and Facebook page.

Read more articles by Marta Manning.

A native of Poland, Marta Manning shifted her career path to freelance journalism after working as a research chemist. Her articles have appeared in WebMD.com, the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the NAMI.org national blog, and the Midland Daily News. Marta enjoys drawing and painting, hiking, and supporting local arts and indie music.