Every Thursday evening in the belly of Brooks Hall sits a collection of poets, creatives and arts enthusiasts that make up Flux, the University’s student-led poetry and spoken word organization. The only group of its kind at the University, Flux plays a unique and important role in the community, giving its participants a place to express themselves and a platform to share their work.
Azhané Pollard, president of Flux and third-year College student, said the club welcomes all art forms, not just poetry and prose.
“We try to cultivate a safe space for people to share their work at all stages, authentically and as truthfully as they can,” Pollard said.
Flux’s open mic nights — the club’s hallmark event — are where this celebration of all art forms takes place most frequently. Anyone and everyone is welcome to sign up to perform, resulting in an assortment of evocative pieces covering a wide range of topics and concepts.
For Maria Rahmouni, Flux’s outreach chair and third year College student, Flux is the most diverse community on Grounds that she is a part of, in part because of the variation in the styles of pieces presented.
“Anything that you share will resonate with someone who is in the community because it is so diverse,” Rahmouni said. “We have people share incredibly silly topics and incredibly serious topics, and they're all received well.”
Every performer who comes up to the mic to share is met with an extremely attentive audience. Each piece is responded to with “mmhs,” snaps and cheers of admiration, exclamations that blend together into a symphony of support.
“Everyone really hones in and gives the poet their undivided attention — they're locked in, and people are reactive,” Pollard said. “Everyone’s so vocal about the experience and what the person is sharing.”
This sense of comradery among artists is the heart of Flux, Pollard said, and transcends into the other events and activities that the club hosts throughout the school year.
“I think there's a sense of unity in that we are all writers and we all acknowledge that everything we write has a bit of us in it,” Rahmouni said.
From collaborative events with other student organizations to poetry writing workshops and featuring submitted pieces in their literary magazine, Flux gives creatives many opportunities to come together and uplift one another.
“We are bringing people together through art and through orality and through spoken narrative,” Pollard said, explaining that those who come to Flux find solidarity through a mutual appreciation of art and of sharing it.
Being part of this community is just not reserved for students at the University, but extends to Charlottesville at large. Describing the group as one that prioritizes being a welcoming and accessible space, Pollard emphasized how important it is for Flux to make an effort to hear the voices and see the perspectives of those outside the “bubble” of the University.
Just last semester Flux hosted an open mic night in collaboration with New Dominion Bookstore. Pollard explained that the event was open to the public in an effort to “open the gate” between students and members of the community.
“It’s definitely open for the entire community,” Pollard said. “We want to make sure that we're hearing creative expression from non-U.Va students alike, just so we can hear that diverse perspective.”
Flux will take this commitment to cultivate conversation to their upcoming Arts on the Hill feature, a recurring event on Carr’s Hill spotlighting artists and academics from the University and beyond. The evening of Sept. 26 is something that all of Flux is looking forward to, and that Rahmouni has been working on for a month.
“It feels like an acknowledgment of the value of written work, and putting your feelings or ideas and emotions into poetry,” Rahmouni said.
The night will feature a selection of speakers from Flux, with an open discussion at the end of the evening’s readings, and the culture of arts on Grounds. Tickets to attend are available for University staff, faculty and students by a lottery system. The last day to enter is Sept. 21.
“This is the first time at U.Va that I've seen poetry advertised in such a way by the entire community and by U.Va itself,” Rahmouni said. “I'm really proud of it and it feels like an honor to be able to share our work with everyone, and hopefully get some positive recognition.”
In the meantime, Flux will continue to do what they do best — craft community through artistic expression.