Cross-pollination might be tough to find amid Mother Nature’s seasonal deep freeze. But it will be alive and well at the Racine Arts Council Saturday night, Feb. 15, when the BONK! Performance Series brings together poetry, humor, role-playing and other artistic expression in a 6 p.m. show.
Presented by the Racine Public Library, BONK! is a monthly event that puts together performers who wouldn’t typically share the same bill, with the hope that their performances will have some effect on each other, according to Nick Demske, series curator, librarian and poet. Since BONK!’s launch in 2008, such cross-pollination has taken place among spoken word artists, musicians (ranging from hip-hop to barbershop), filmmakers, novelists, visual artists and more.
While Saturday’s featured performers are all writers, there is great diversity in what they do with words.
Anja Sieger, for example, is a “performance typist,” while poet Erinn Batykefer promotes collaboration between libraries and artists through the Library as Incubator Project. They will be joined by author Justin Grimbol, whose books offer a funny, yet touching and often bizarre, view of the world (see bios below for more about each artist).
Their performance marks the 65th edition of BONK! And it comes at a time when Demske said he sees “a kind of critical mass of arts and arts activities taking place in Racine.”
People like Nick Ramsey, who runs the Grassroots Wednesdays Open Mic & Artist Showcase (www.facebook.com/FamilyPowerMusic), are busy bringing together people from various arts entities so that they can help each other, Demske said.
The Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation, which funds many area arts programs is also “changing the game” for Racine’s arts community, he said. “They have made it possible for us to do more, and its not just with financing. They are getting people from different pockets of the arts community together.” BONK! has also been doing more collaboration with other area events, such as last summer’s Root River Festival, a cultural event put on by the Root River Council, Demske said.
And the series’ production has been bolstered through its connection with a newly formed public writers group at the Racine Public Library called The Word Shop, which has brought more community volunteers to help run BONK!.
“And that’s just some of the stuff going on in this community,” Demske said.
There are so many good things being done by artists and the arts groups here that we'd be “shooting ourselves in the foot” by not working together, he said.
“If we all started collaborating, we could accomplish even more,” Demske said. “And I don’t think I’m the only person working toward that. I think we are now at a level where we are maturing into a new stage, and that’s really exciting.”
Featured BONK! performers for Saturday, Feb. 15:
• Erinn Batykefer: A Madison-based writer and librarian, Batykefer is also the co-founder/editor of the Library as Incubator Project (www.libraryasincubatorproject.org).
The project’s mission is to promote and facilitate creative collaboration between libraries and artists of all types, and to advocate for libraries as incubators of the arts.
Batykefer has won a variety of fellowships and awards, including the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Prize for her first collection, “Allegeny, Monongahela.” Go to http://erinn-batykefer.squarespace.com for more.
• Justin Grimbol: Raised by ministers in Sag Harbor, N.Y., Grimbol now lives in Racine and is the author of four books including “Drinking Until Morning” (Black Coffee Press) and “The Crud Masters” (Eraserhead Press).
He writes fiction, horror and poetry, with influences ranging from bizarro fiction writer Carlton Mellick to storyteller, humorist and radio personality Garrison Keillor.
His work is both funny and serious, campy and raunchy. For a taste of what he does, check out www.facebook.com/justin.grimbol.
• Anja Notanja Sieger: The creator of La Prosette, a performance typing service, Sieger writes and performs other people’s thoughts.
Customers hire her to write and perform poetry, love letters, insult letters, short stories and more. She takes on the character of each customer as she creates and, when performing, incorporates different costumes and props.
The Franklin native has a degree in printmaking and creative writing and performed with a puppet theater in Kansas City, before moving back to Wisconsin.
If You Go
WHAT: BONK! Performance Series, presented by the Racine Public Library
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
WHERE: Racine Arts Council, 316 Sixth St.
INFO: Go to http://bonkperformanceseries.wordpress.com