Columbus Makes Art Presents: Andre Barrett, Jr. on Performing at Open Mics
Andre Barrett, Jr. is a Columbus-based dancer, musician/music producer, educator and administrator with TRANSIT ARTS, a program of Central Community House that provides free workshops in the creative industries to young artists aged 12-21. Barrett is also an IT Associate at the Columbus Museum of Art. This month he is an integral part of the team producing the TRANSIT ARTS Holiday Open Mic and Arts Market on Tuesday, Dec. 19, playing hip hop and R&B music on keyboards when he’s not on the dance floor with the TRANSIT ARTS Hip Hop Dance Crew.
TRANSIT ARTS director Jackie Calderone caught up with him to talk about his experiences performing at open mics.
Jackie: What can people expect when they come to the Holiday Open Mic?
Andre: Professional talent, inexperienced artists facing their fears and overall support for everyone. Open mics aren’t grandiose events but safe spaces where people can show up and present themselves even if they’re afraid. This is a place of opportunity.
Jackie: Do you remember your first open mic experience?
Andre: The first thing I ever did at open mic was dance. I already had experience from the TRANSIT ARTS dance classes, but doing a solo was completely different. It was a bit intimidating as I was doing my own creativity vs. the structured group choreography. When I performed music at open mics it was comfortable because of my years of public performances in high school band. With dance, and something I hadn’t shared before, I liked to keep it to the chest. This showed me I didn’t have to keep it to myself anymore and it was okay to take risks and open myself.
Jackie: How did you feel after you performed?
Andre: Accomplished. The audience members (and my fellow dance crew members) were so supportive and cheered me on.
Jackie: Tell me about your creative process as an artist.
Andre: When I create music, it comes from a variety of places. It can come from a sound or how I feel at that moment. Sometimes it’s from playing chords on my piano and sometimes from messing with drums. But when I do find something I can build off of, I try to keep a hold of that feeling. That’s not just with music but with dance as well.
Jackie: Who inspires you creatively?
Andre: I’m inspired by artists like Timberland, Pharrell Williams/The Neptunes, Kanye West, and the art of Ilya Kuvshinov. I like people who go their own way and don’t follow the trends, whose music speaks to who they are as people. They reach a place in me that no one else can. Pharrell is unique — everything he does is him. I want my music to represent me as an artist and as a person.
Jackie: How did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
Andre: When I got my first check for doing a gig with TRANSIT ARTS I realized that there are other ways to make income without having to pursue the so called “American Dream.” Before I got paid I loved what I did in the arts but receiving a check helped me realize that there are many ways to live that dream. You can live off of your talent when you put in the time and are dedicated. You can do what you love.
Jackie: How does it feel to help rising young artists develop their talents?
Andre: It feels like I’m shaping the future. As adults, we tend to forget to give the younger generation the opportunity to express themselves. Giving back not only feels good but gives me hope. It’s easy to get tied up in adult affairs, getting a paycheck, and we forget to be who we are at the core. I want to give that opportunity to the new generation.
The TRANSIT ARTS Holiday Open Mic and Arts Market goes down on Tuesday, Dec. 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Central Community House, 1150 E. Main St. 43205. Performers include the TRANSIT ARTS Hip Hop Dance Crew with DJ BHB; BBX; emcees Jai Carey & Skater Drew; singers and poets; live painting with Richard Duarte Brown; and Andre Barrett, Jr. on the keyboards and dance floor. Artwork will be for sale for your last-minute holiday shopping pleasure. For more info about TRANSIT ARTS programs visit transitarts.com.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.