‘Tangible Thoughts’ holds space, love for Black creatives

“Tangible Thoughts Open Mic,” part of the Tangible arts collective, is a monthly event for Black artists and activists.

Minneapolis Musician KingEmpress performs at the Tangible Thoughts Open Mic event at A-Mill Artist Lofts on Saturday, Feb. 15. The recurring event serves as a platform to highlight Black thought and expression in the Twin Cities.

Kamaan Richards

Minneapolis Musician KingEmpress performs at the Tangible Thoughts Open Mic event at A-Mill Artist Lofts on Saturday, Feb. 15. The recurring event serves as a platform to highlight Black thought and expression in the Twin Cities.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

Zania Coleman and Ricki Williams knew they wanted to create together since the eighth grade.

They stayed friends through high school, both involved in extracurriculars and the arts. College finally came around and they thought, “Why don’t we actually start something now?”

“We were getting to that age where we were looking for things outside of our school to do,” Williams said. “We’ve been talking about doing it since we were young. So, we one day decided, ‘You know what, let’s just try and have an open mic.’”

“Tangible Thoughts” is a monthly open mic night and part of their collective “Tangible.” While deciding on a name, they sat in Coleman’s room with a notepad. 

“We started thinking about ‘thought,’ and the importance of Black thoughts and ideas,” Williams said. “We wanted something that you can, like, feel and touch. We’re trying to bring Black thought to people, so we ended up with the word ‘tangible.’”

When they began building it, Coleman and Williams thought about spaces, but not in the physical sense. 

“We really were intentional about making a space that was something that we would have wanted to go to,” Coleman said. “All the spaces [we’ve been to] weren’t places where Black girls could hang out and relax and be in community.”

Coleman and Williams wanted to hold a space that was a loving space, where Black millennials could express themselves and facilitate dialogue. 

“Our age group have roughly all come out of moving into their 20s, and as creatives, there isn’t space for us to continuously develop,” Coleman said. “With ‘Tangible Thoughts,’ you can say ‘I was in performing for two years straight and I had a following just from that.’ It’s a platform that allows creative space to actually propel your career forward.”

The Tangible Collective was first established in September 2017, and since then, it has fostered a community that focuses on building members up rather than competing. 

“In the ‘thoughts’ portion of [‘Tangible Thoughts’] we want to allow Black creatives to actually talk about themselves and their art and who they are as people,” Williams said. “Even Black thinkers, Black activists, giving them a wider platform and exposing more people to the things that they’re doing.”

Those who attend the open mic see this come to fruition during each month’s event. 

“They’ve been very intentional about who they create space with and being a consistent source for the people who want to celebrate in this space,” said Atlese Robinson, an artist and friend of Coleman. “It’s like when you plant the seed, it’s not going to be a big tree in a couple of weeks, but it will grow and be able to flourish with time.”

The Tangible Collective wants to expand past the open mic and a few other events that they host. One way they’re hoping to stretch their influence is through collaboration, including an event at the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Thursday.

“Even though we’re Black-centered, it includes everybody,” Coleman said. “Blackness isn’t exclusive. Black female energy isn’t one that is exclusive. We want everybody to feel welcome and comforted.”

What: Third Thursday: Afrofuturism

When: Thursday, Feb. 20, 6 – 9 p.m.

Where: Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cost: Free