Poetry News

Library as Incubator Highlights the BONK! Performance Series

By Harriet Staff


We love libraries and librarians, and we're sure this isn't news to any of our readers. But the Library as Incubator Project might be. Created by Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Endres, the Library as Incubator Project "highlights the ways that libraries and artists can work together, and works to strengthen these partnerships."

Recently, they invited Nick Demske--poet, librarian and curator--to talk about the BONK! Performance Series hosted by the Racine Public Library. We're especially excited by the way the series redefines what local can mean. In an interview, Demske describes how the series came to be:

I founded the BONK! Performance Series in October of 2008 with poets Matt Specht and Nicholas Michael Ravnikar. There are lots of art “things” happening in and around Racine, but they’re things like the Racine Symphony Orchestra or the Choral Arts Society or exhibits at the many downtown galleries. These are wonderful, beautiful, life-bringing things, but they are all very mainstream and traditional. We felt that when one (aesthetic) culture dominates a(n arts) community– no matter how great it is– the community suffers.

So there was that–the recognition that all the art culture around was very mainstream. But, beyond that, we were also concerned with things like how homogeneous these arts communities were: everyone involved in them seemed to be of a pretty similar economic status and tended to be white. Coupled with the fact that people here didn’t know artists beyond our city boundaries, the whole situation made for a sort of constant cultural feedback, where we were getting influenced by other people in our community–which is great–but then not by anyone else.

Initially, Demsky says that he worried about how the arts community of Racine would react to the more experimental nature of the series, but that worry turned out to be unfounded:

[W]e were really concerned that Racine wasn’t ready to have such challenging, experimental stuff in its face. Boy were we wrong. And what a fortune that was, even for me personally–to have that myth about my community disproven. And how! It turns out, there are people everywhere who are really interested in challenging, difficult, avant-garde art. BONK! gets attended by artists, college professors, college students, the near-homeless, senior citizens, high school students, people coming from other cities…

When we started getting audience coming from Chicago and Milwaukee, I knew we were doing something great. This is the stuff that everyone everywhere is actually craving. We just don’t even know it exists until something like BONK! comes around and sheds a light on it. The art we’re familiar with now, in general–music, film, books, etc–is so mass-produced and industry-publicized that we barely realize there’s an alternative to that.

Head over to the Library as Incubator to read the rest.

Originally Published: February 12th, 2013