UNL student finds art in making creative connections

Gabriella Parsons knows that the Lincoln, Nebraska, creative scene isn’t simply limited to art and music. These two things wouldn’t flourish without the participants and the observers — and bringing them all together is an art in and of itself.

This realization guided Parsons, a senior journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to recently open a collaborative performance and visual art venue called The Mez.

“I don’t really consider myself a musician or a fine artist,” she said. “I think my art is recognizing other people’s art and connecting them with people who could appreciate their art. I am part observer and part participant in the local creative scene.”

And now leader. Parsons and her roommate, Joelle Sandfort, rented and renovated a room on the mezzanine floor of the building that houses Game Room and Timeless Treasures on 17th and O streets. The co-founders had their first event at The Mez on Feb. 13. Since then, many local artists and musicians have asked the pair if they could share their art there.

Parsons, who grew up in Lincoln, has always been a leader and had a desire to make a difference throughout her whole life.

“I’ve always wanted my voice to be heard,” she said. “Now I’m in a position where I can help other people’s voices be heard.”

This venue allows her to give young people who want to showcase their talents a platform she didn’t always have.

However, juggling a full class schedule, a part-time job and now operating a venue inevitably presents challenges. Parsons says finding a balance between these things has taken time and energy she didn’t realize it would require. She calls The Mez a “passion project” – not something motivated by money or recognition, but something she feels the community needs right now.

Still, it’s a daunting responsibility.

“I get scared,” she said. “I get really nervous. I ask myself ‘Is this money that I’ve invested in this space and the time and energy worth it?’ But I think when you notice that something you’re doing is affecting a group of people, it becomes something bigger than you and that’s beautiful but it’s also terrifying.”

Sandfort, also a full-time student, said The Mez would not be possible without community members lending their skills to the project.

“It feels like other people are carrying the load,” she said. “It’s not just us running this.”

Although The Mez is just getting started, Parsons recognizes the uncertain future that comes with being a student. While the space itself might not always exist, she believes the idea of The Mez is something that will never end for her. Parson hopes to continue a career combining her passion for music, art and journalism.

“The scary thing about making a career out of a passion is the chance that it will be tainted by the need to succeed, the need to make a living, but that’s not what The Mez is about,” she said. “It’s about people coming together and having a space to do what they love. It’s making a difference right now. As long as I know that truth about this project, that gives me comfort in not knowing what the end result will be.”



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