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Meet Eric Contreras of Alivio Open Mic in Bell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Contreras.

Eric, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Alivio Open Mic was born from the void that existed here in Southeast Los Angeles. There was a lack of spaces that promoted artistic expression and voices here in our community. Each time I wanted to listen to spoken word, engage with artists, enjoy artwork, or share my poetry, I found myself leaving my community of Bell. After finding myself one too many times on the 5 freeway, the 710 freeway, the 10 freeway, and the 101 freeway, I began to think, “Why do I always have to extract myself from my community to enjoy art?” This thought fermented inside of my mind until I ended up doing something about it.

Back in 2012, I told a few friends that I wanted to start an open mic in my garage, but I was stifled by the thought of starting it at a public space. I was stifled by the thought of rent, and bill, and permits, and all the other requirements that come with opening up a public establishment. I knew we had an incredible amount of talent and stories to tell, but we had no platform for ourselves. After being inspired by a conversation I had with a friend – Lady Basco – I was certain that I could cultivate the open mic in my own home.

My friends helped me with the first open mic — Microfono Libre — and the turnout was incredible. Nearly 100 people arrived to the humble garage, so I knew the need was there. I took a few months of time to prepare to make the space a continuous platform for storytelling, art exhibition, musical performance, poetry, and community.

In January 2013, I hosted the first ever Alivio Open Mic, and I was fortunate enough to have the nation-wide renowned author, Luis Rodriguez Jr., visit our space and share his raw and powerful words. Since 2013, Alivio Open Mic has not let up. From documentaries being filmed at Alivio, to hosting a community of vendors each month, to LGBTQ nights, to all women’s poetry nights, we’ve engaged Southeast Los Angeles in an organic grassroots way that has never been done before. Since 2013, we’ve been featured on the front page of the LA Times, KCET, KPFK, Univision, and now, Voyage LA.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Some of the challenges for me personally have been organizing and promoting a monthly open mic while being a high school teacher. Although the event is only once a month, there is a lot of planning that goes into it. Fortunately, I get help from good friends and community members. Another consistent challenge has been to maintain a safe space with purposeful integrity. This space is for people to validate themselves and their struggles. It is a space made to give voice to those who have felt voiceless. However, this space is not one to express sexism and homophobia, or racism and transphobia. These standards need to be intentionally maintained by me and other people helping me coordinate the events. Since Alivio Open Mic keeps growing, more people keep wanting to come to our home, but overall, most people have been very respectful of the home and the vision we strive to maintain.

Please tell us about Alivio Open Mic.
I am the organizer of Alivio, and the monthly host of the space. I am the master of ceremonies, so I’m the guy you see on the stage, calling people up to the mic, entertaining the audience, reciting poetry, and occasionally, making a fool of myself.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing about how I started Alivio. I believe everything that has happened in the space was meant to be, and everything is a learning experience to grow from.

Pricing:

  • 12 dollar T-shirts
  • 2 dollar stickers
  • 1 dollar buttons

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Felix Quintana
Rudy Torres

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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