common ground open mic series

common ground is organized by progressive Vietnamese American community members, artists, and activists committed to cultivating a positive and safe healing space for artistic growth and community empowerment. The common ground collective builds collaborations across communities and supports the work of social justice spaces.

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Singer/songwriter Jane Lee is one of our August 2nd WOMYN SHOW features. How does art empower her as a womyn?

ever since i was a little girl, singing was an emotional and spiritual outlet for me. no matter how beat down i was, when i was singing i felt free. as a child, when i was upset or frustrated, i remember going to my room, slamming my door shut, picking up my walkman, blasting wilson phillips and singing at the top of my lungs. over the years, i’ve come to recognize what a special gift music has been in my life. to this day, when i’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or burdened, i find somewhere i can be alone, pick up my guitar, strum a simple melody over and over again and just sing whatever is on my heart, no matter how incoherent or nonsensical it may sound. it’s one of the few spaces that i can feel completely unconstrained from the limitations and pressures society imposes on me as a womyn, as asian american, as a young person… songwriting provides a venue for me to vent, reflect, dream, process my thoughts and feelings, and just sing it out and release it. it’s been a huge part of my healing and growth process, and i hope to continue to grow as an artist who writes honest music that not only empowers myself, but inspires and empowers others.

The show is tomorrow. Come see Jane Lee and other amazing womyn share their art live on stage!

common ground’s next show is August 2. Mark it on your calendars as “THE BEST DAY EVER… SO FAR!” We’re commemorating this two-year anniversary show by revisiting our very first theme, “womyn!” 



Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance // community spotlight

Claudia Chen // youth spotlight

DJ South // guest DJ

Jane Lee // guitar and vocals

Tu-Uyen Nguyen// poetry 

Jaclyn Rose // music & vocals


Doors open at 6:30pm
Open Mic sign ups start at 6:30pm and end at 7pm. We have limited open mic slots, so come on time for sign ups.
More info ->

The show starts at 7:30pm. $5 suggested donation.

Spoken word poet and the closing act for our July 5th show Audrey Kuo shares her “Perspectives” with us:

I’m tempted to just answer this question with “I approach my art from my perspective.” For real, though, I think the creative process is intensely personal — or, at least, it should be. I’ve been putting together my first chapbook, sorting through poems I’ve written over the last four or so years. I’ve been surprised at how obvious it is which pieces don’t belong; the pieces that lacked emotional truth stand out, and I’m comfortable letting them go.
I still consider myself very new to the stage, and I think there’s so much power in being able to transform personal experience into a way of connecting with other people. I’m trying to be respectful of that process, and learning how to have confidence in my perspective, even as I’m still developing my voice.
As a more literal way of answering the question, I approach my art from a few intersecting perspectives: I identify as queer, female-identified, Taiwanese-American (but ethnically Chinese), and second generation. I also have a background in literature and social justice, and all of those pieces of my identity find their own way into my writing.

Come TOMORROW to see an amazing show! Audrey will also have a zine version of her upcoming chapbook available. Proceeds will go to our space — how cool is she?! 

July 5th is our “PERSPECTIVES” show. Come on over and share yours!



Vietnamese International Film Festival // community spotlight

DJ nPrevail // guest DJ

Yuki Akaishi // guitar and vocals

Siwaraya Rochanahusdin // poetry

Audrey Kuo // spoken word

Hatefas Yop // youth spotlight


Doors open at 6:30pm
Open Mic sign ups start at 6:30pm and end at 7pm. We have limited open mic space so come early to sign up. Priority will go to first timers at the mic.
The show starts at 7:30pm.

RSVP here.

Eco-conscious artist Julie Lam will be doing live art for TONIGHT’S SHOW with Tuesday Night Project and this THURSDAY’s regular show. She took some time to give us a few words on our June theme, “healing”: 

First of all: What is Healing?– There’s the scientific definition - to restore damaged living tissues or it can mean to set right, but what I relate to the most is TO restore oneself to spiritual wholeness.Now, a “space of healing” can be mental or a physical space that one goes to.Essentially, it’s a your “comfort zone” that only you can understand and feel.Whether your comfort zone is talking to your best friend or spending time in the garden –its what makes you feel confident & supported.

To me, my healing space is my art.  It allows me to express my love and concerns for social and environmental issues we face today.  There’s a lot of environmental degradation caused by irrational actions, but one of the first steps to prevent pollution & to be mindful of our fragile eco-system is to make people of aware of their own actions (such as utilizing to much plastic) and to get people talking about current problems we face around the world (such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – which is 7 million tons of floating plastic waste in the pacific ocean).  Most of the art I will present revolves around urban development and how it has changed our eco-system from being a vibrant natural landscape to an urban heat island that is made up of impermeable concrete pavement and where buildings aspirate toxins into the air.  From my art I hope to inspire my viewers to be active in the community because your own COMMUNITY is only as good as what you put into it.  Furthermore, my hope is to make people ALERT and AWARE of our own actions and make a change by reducing how much we buy, reuse what we have and recycle what we can.

For more on Julie’s art, visit her Facebook page. RSVP for our Thursday show here

We are pleased to announce that community organizer, youth advocate, and incredible spoken word artist Fong “Batman” Tran will be driving all the way from Sacramento to perform at our June common ground show. We asked Fong for his thoughts on this month’s comeback theme, “healing.” Here’s what he had to say:

We don’t heal just when we’re hurt or damaged but healing is a apart of the everyday struggle that we live through. Our bodies, minds and spirits deserve to heal and to be replenished. Art serves as that bat-mobile vehicle toward healing because art taps into our creative spirit or inner voice which is often times denied autonomy due to our daily grind.  Healing spaces are necessary because there are times when we can’t always heal on our own and it requires friends, fam and boo-thangs, plus you wanna help other heal others too. HEALING PARTIES!! Lets get “HEALING WASTED!!”

For more on Fong, visit his Tumblr. Curious for more before the show? See him performing his poem “WTF” here.

Photos from our March “Merging Mics” collaboration show with Tuesday Night Project. Thanks to all the features, volunteers, and organizers for making this last show before our hiatus happen. Check us out on Facebook for more updates, and be sure to check out TNP as they kick off their 14th season on April 3!

Credit: The amazing Kristina Aquino.

This Thursday, March 1st we will be “MERGING MICS” in a heart-warming, community-building collaboration with Tuesday Night Project. TNP hosts the 1st and 3rd Tuesday Night Cafe, a space for new work from Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Greater L.A. communities. It’s one of the longest running free public art series in downtown L.A.

Some of the beautiful TNP organizers took some time to weigh in on their thoughts about the importance of art+community:

traci kato-kiriyama:

Art is traditionally, historically, politically, spiritually a way people have communicated with each other through struggle and from the heart.  I’ve learned through various communities time and again how art, from music to murals, has the ability to reach a mass and connect on very human, personal levels.  Movement activists brought themselves together with countless people across the world through the power of sharing their stories through song.  Art is one of our best means of education through the visual and oral tradition.  Art is breath.  Art is connection.  And it’s just really damn necessary and super cool.

Chris Hahn:

Art has the ability to move people if it strikes the right cords. I am a prime example, if it were not for the art from my community I would be spending my time drinking and being unproductive. I now pursue music as a medium to release frustration and pleasure.

Candace Kita:

In my community, I’ve seen expression transform into compassion. I’m convinced that there is nothing more powerful than the art of creation— whether that means creating work or creating relationships. 
Quincy Surasmith:
Art has always been an important way for me to build and understand community. The acts of sharing and expression do wonders to help people understand, relate to, and connect with each other.
Michael Nailat:
Art has been the connecting link in my community, the common thread that has led me to meeting so many of the people I work with now.  Everyone I truly consider to be my family I’ve met through the Spoken Word scene or worked with through FilAm Arts or the Cafe.  And even though I’m not particularly good at any one medium or method of art making, because I’m surrounded by so many loving and talented artists, I can’t help but feel like their triumphs are tributes to the people and communities we’ve all built together.
NOW dya get why we’re so, so excited about our collaboration this Thursday?? RSVP on Facebook, or just show up ready for a good time. We’re going to be taking a hiatus after this show, so be sure to catch us now, and TNP when they start up again on April 3!

Soulful singer and March 1st feature Pratiti Renee Mehta reflects on the importance that music has played in the communities she is a part of:

When I was seven years old, I convinced a music teacher from school to come home in order to explain to my unyielding mother how much I loved and needed music in my life. Little did he know…! Actually, little did my mother know I even had an interest in singing.

Two decades later, this is by far still my favorite memory. Why? Well, if it hadn’t been for this very moment, I would have never met my soul mate.

Having spent half my life in India and half in the US, I often find myself wondering where my identity truly lies. English replaces Hindi as my day-to-day language, dresses replace saris on (most) special occasions and humongous family Sunday get-togethers are limited to occasional Skype sessions. As the rest of my Indian life slowly says its goodbyes, the music in my soul refuses to leave.

Indian classical music, in particular, has done wonders for my identity pangs. It has provided a platform for generations of Indians, like and unlike myself, to carry on the voice of our people no matter how “Indianized” or “Americanized” we may be or feel.  I am an individual, carrying the voice of millions. If this isn’t community, then I don’t know what is.

This is a voice of my ancestors, of my origin and it reminds me that while the world I live in is nothing like theirs, our “common ground” is the music they have buried so deeply in my soul.

Did you miss her and Andre perform last February? Catch the video of the flooring performance here, or better yet— see her on stage for our March 1st “MERGING MICS” collaboration show! It’s only a week away. How can you stand it?!

Photo credit: Kristina Aquino