Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 8, 2008

Off-Knox open mic grows in size

“Sometimes, I’d rather eat the floor, because I know where it came from,” said Junior Joey Firman in the improvised short play he presented at Off-Knox on Friday, October 3, at 7:00 p.m.

The 14 acts from this year’s Off-Knox open mic were varied, consisting in everything from a reading of the poetry of “non-humans” to a reading of humorist Jean Shepherd’s “Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb” to a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” where the performers donned sunglasses and one even sported an unlit cigarette. The show also included the talents of several faculty members, Professor Natania Rosenfeld read several animal poems, including her own “At the Zoo” and Professor Gina Franco read from a series of her own poems as well. Student artwork was also on display throughout the performances.

Off-Knox has been held at various venues over the years, but this term, it took place at The Box, a studio space located on the corner of Kellogg and Simmons Streets. Mark Holmes, a professor in the art department and owner of the studio, said the popularity of Off-Knox has grown so much that coffee shops are now too small for the typical audience.

Professor Gina Franco concurred with this, saying that when Off-Knox was held on the balcony of McGillicuddy’s last year, the audience was spilling out into the stairwell. She also estimated that last year, about 50 people attended; this year, there were so many she said she “stopped counting,” although she guessed there were about 80 people present.

Franco said Off-Knox has been going on “at Kaldi’s before it was Kaldi’s” or since about 2004. The original vision for it was, as Franco put it, to foster an “arts community” in Galesburg. In its original form, three minutes were set aside for each student, faculty member, or member of the community to present whatever creative work they wanted.

“We didn’t have a venue for faculty and students to share their work together,” said Franco. “It seemed necessary.”

Mark Holmes said he supports “Off-Knox” because it allows students to “blow off steam.” Franco also said “Off-Knox” provides a “generous audience” to which artists, musicians, writers, actors, etc. can present their work. The performers are often first-timers because Off-Knox tends to attract a different set of performers from year to year, although “a few brave souls” have performed multiple times, said Franco. She suspects many of the audience members “fantasize” about performing, even if they do not choose to do so.

Faculty involvement was greater in “Off-Knox” in the past. According to Franco, Dean Breitborde played the accordion at “Off-Knox” several years back. She suggested that such faculty involvement might be something to look forward to again, if the students are willing to do some convincing.

Franco said reactions to this year’s Off-Knox were “varied and wonderful.”

Holmes said that he would like to see a greater variety of performances, especially a greater number of musical performances.

Helmut Mayer, director of Dining Services, said, “I wouldn’t bring my kids to it, but I thought it was great. I think Galesburg needs more of it.”

Rachel Bauer

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