It’s 6 p.m. at the Brownwood Art Center, and two men with copious beards are playing acoustic guitars and trying out a new song from the temporary stage they’ve set up.
A food truck parked across the street offers fried chicken and pizza, and there’s a row of tables at the back piled full with coloring books and crayons next to a bucket of ice-cold water. Between the art lining the walls — the Brownwood Art Association’s annual photography exhibit is up — and the gentle acoustics, the atmosphere feels like a college-town coffee shop or an intimate concert.
But at the Art Association’s monthly A.M.P. event — which stands for Art, Music and People — that’s exactly what they’re going for.
A.M.P. is an open-mic night that the Art Association hosts every third Thursday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m. Local musicians bring their instruments and play a few songs for a crowd of their fellow artists and music lovers. From original folk tunes to country covers to indie jams, A.M.P. offers a little of everything. And with the coloring books available, the kids are always welcome, too.
Jonathan Dunlap is one of the bearded men who led off Thursday’s A.M.P. event. He’s a Brownwood native who used to tour with No Dry County and now plays the open mic event each month.
Dunlap said A.M.P. is about bringing local musicians together. “It’s a cool idea,” he said, “because we grew up here when there wasn’t really a music scene, and we’re trying to fix that.
“In other cities, the Arts District is a lot more vibrant and a bigger part of the community, and we want to bring that here,” he said.
His bandmate Thursday evening was Wiley Wood, whose wife Carolyn teaches regular Muse & Merlot classes at the Art Center. Wood said A.M.P. is a great family space for live music and an alternative to Brownwood’s traditional venues, many of which are in bars. “This is a good way to showcase the artists in the community,” he said. “Obviously there’s always art here on display, but this is just another side of art. We’re trying to foster a community.”
Art Association member Fred Spencer said A.M.P. attracts some significant local talent. “We have some people who are just starting out and haven’t done much,” he said, “and others who’ve been on tour or play regularly around town. It’s a real open mic and a great place to learn your craft.”
A.M.P. is free for guests and artists, and area musicians are encouraged to attend and sign up to perform when they arrive. The Brownwood Art Center is located at 215 Fisk Ave., and the next A.M.P. open mic night will occur on Nov. 16.