So, if we’re all artists in some way, why is it that I feel out of place almost every time I visit an art gallery or check out a show downtown? Why do I feel like I’m being melted by condescending eyes for pounding a can of Busch Light instead sipping a glass of Rialto Red? Or why is it that I always feel underdressed even if I’m wearing the classiest thing I own? Because Greater Cincinnati’s art scene is pretentious in the eyes of the everyman, meaning someone who’s never experienced the toils of art school.
A handful of young local artists has worked since early February to build an art community that lacks pretentiousness, exclusiveness or any other barrier that would inhibit the community from being about anything but the art. The band of artists operates under the moniker of Bunk News.
“(Bunk News) is a collaborative group of friends and artists where each person is bringing different media, styles, skill sets and perspectives into one somewhat focused direction,” says Ben Brown, one of the four founders and a fine arts student in UC’s Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP) program. “We also try to work with a lot of other artists, both visual and otherwise, to bring circles together and continually meet more of the dope people doing dope things in this city and elsewhere.”
Bunk News was formed in 2005 when several local artists — namely Brown, Graham Nelson, Davey Howard and Chris Liedtke — crossed paths and began making art, among other things. Their early shows were held in a small apartment in Corryville, where they’d move every piece of furniture into one room and hang art everywhere else for visitors to check out.
As the group evolved over the next three years, more artists joined the Bunk crew, including Pat Mulrey, Tim Larson, Steve Adkins and Chris Adams.
In February, Brown made the decision with Adams to “legitimize what we were trying to do” by renting a warehouse in the West End, which has become the Bunk Warehouse and serves as the collective’s headquarters.
“Art should be a community thing, both when making it and enjoying it,” Brown says. “We’ve really been trying to bring a wide variety of music through the spot so we can get some cross pollination of the scenes in Cincinnati.”
On almost any night of the week, Bunk Warehouse is open for visitors to enjoy art and live music for a suggested $5 donation at the door. Despite the crumbling buildings and too few street lamps outside, the performance space inside is cool and comfortable, tastefully lit with stage lights and decorated with work by various artists. Lacking a stage, every performance creates a sense of intimacy and wholeness among those in attendance.
“We would like to make art more tangible,” Mulrey says. “We’d like to strip away pretensions within our city and hopefully bring people together under the common bond of art.”
The art ranges from Punk shows to film screenings, paintings to installations, and everything in between.
“We want to bring shows that leave you thinking, ‘Wow, that was tight, crazy, loud, weird as fuck!’ And in one week, you could catch a Noise show, Punk show, Indie show and film screening,” Brown says. “We try and keep you on your toes.”
For the “campout” event Friday night, the warehouse will be transformed into a synthetic re-creation of a forest as a wide collaboration on a single installation. The space will be garnished with tents, television bonfires, projected forest scenes and cardboard trees whose branches weave through the rafters, making the campout an authentically unreal experience for anyone who attends.
“In the age of digital replication, it made sense for us to try and replicate an idea or experience, but filtered through our imaginations and our hands until it becomes something different,” Brown says. “Our hope is that your suspension of disbelief will allow you to experience the idea of a campout without any camping involved.”
The campout event will feature this month’s art and live music by Indianapolis-based Pop-Experimental group Everthus the Deadbeats. Also performing are The Happy Maladies and Michael Shelton, both Cincinnati outfits.
Brown and Adams fund the Bunk Warehouse rent and operations. Donations either go to touring bands or toward purchasing things like toilet paper and soap to keep the place up. Brown reports making no monetary profits but still expresses his devotedness and satisfaction with Bunk’s success in the past few months.
“Our lease is up in a few months, but we would definitely like to continue on in a new space,” Brown says. “We just gotta see where we’re at when we get there. It’s been 100 percent fun and satisfying so far, though, and we’d like to keep hanging out and having fun.”
What Brown describes as “having fun” is essentially the creation of an artistic environment in which anyone can feel like they have a place and enjoy being there. It’s a place the local art scene needs, where the spotlight is cast on the community of art, not the image of it.
As Mulrey puts it, “We would ideally like Bunk to become a place where scenes and genres disappear, where people can come and enjoy something they’ve never seen before. Hopefully, that will in return spark their own creativity and they’ll go out and find what drives them.”
BUNK WAREHOUSE hosts an indoor “campout” event at 9 p.m. Friday. Get details at www.myspace.com/bunkwarehouse. Bunk is located at 1818 John St. in the West End.