WHO? WHAT? WHERE? by Ellen Donker
Two artists keep us in the know about local events
It’s Friday afternoon and you’re wondering how to start your weekend. There was that live music event you heard about, but was it at the Burgdorff or Fox and Falcon? And the Maplewood Library is having a poetry reading, but where is it being held since the main library is under construction?
Life in Maplewood and South Orange can be busy. And with so many events planned by organizations, retailers, arts groups and more, keeping them all straight can be tough.
That’s what Catherine (Cat) Delett thought too. As the executive director of the Maplewood Village Alliance, she says, “I saw this need that I kept hearing from residents, but also from the people working and trying to plan events, that we never know what’s going on in other places. It’s really hard.”
So she decided to do something about it and in the spring of 2022, Delett started a website called SOMAPSO with a calendar feature to list all of the events that she knew were happening in the two towns. Delett already had the talent and experience to build a website and says, “This is probably like my sixth Squarespace site. They make it really easy. I’m definitely not a website genius.”
But Delett is a trained graphic designer and narrative painter (meaning she likes to tell stories through art) who has been working in the digital space for a long time. She also has plenty of experience producing and marketing events from her time working with Valley Arts and other volunteer organizations as well as in her present job with the alliance. That’s probably why she can make it all seem effortless.
Thinking that it would be helpful to pair the website with a weekly podcast, Delett approached her friend and fellow artist Chrissy McIntyre, whose niche is mixed media collage. The two had met years ago – perhaps at the Artwalk in 2014, they think – and remember bonding over their fascination with the Serial podcast, even flirting with launching their own series. Although that never came to pass, now was a chance to make good on the idea. It also helps that McIntyre had spent some years at SiriusXM radio as a producer and knew how to edit audio. She says, “Part of my job there was…writing down funny parts, trying to keep my ear out for things that would make a good little ‘bit’ [that] you could inject in the show to make people laugh. That’s what I do now.”
The duo held a few practice episodes at McIntyre’s house to nail down the format that would best let residents know what was happening in town. During each segment, they discuss what they did the past week and the events they’re looking forward to, the way two friends might have a conversation. It’s a give and take with a good mix of humor that draws on the comfortable friendship the two have enjoyed for many years. It also helps that they have both lived in town for almost 20 years; they know their community.
MIntyre says they purposely keep the show short to make it easily digestible. As the editor, she remembers a particularly long episode and says, “We were having so much fun, basically, and we recorded for two hours. I get it down to 15 minutes. So there’s a lot. You have to be brutal.”
As someone who likes to create, Delett considers SOMAPSO a way to express herself and have ownership of an endeavor. She says, “It may sound silly to think that putting events on an events calendar and sending an email every week is a creative outlet, but it is.…I can do it however I want. The messaging is all my own. This is kind of like my fun thing to do.”
Delett and McIntyre have no plans to monetize SOMAPSO except for the merchandise they have started selling to help defray some of the costs. Podcasts and the weekly email come out every Thursday and you can listen at somapso.com or on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can also go to the website to subscribe to their newsletter or submit your event. Follow them on Instagram @somapso_life.
Ellen Donker is now on the SOMAPSO mailing list and has no excuse for missing events in town.