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Night School for Activism

Mar. 5, 2014
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Founded in 2011 by co-curators Paul Kjelland and Peter Murphy, Night School is a series of panels, lectures and film screenings that focus on activism. Most of the presentations have taken place at the cooperatively run Riverwest Public House. Some of the programs are open ended, like the “Radical Shaping of Milwaukee” series. Other series are more specific, like the recent three-part “Intersectionality of Homelessness,” guest curated by the Step By Step Collective.


What is Night School?

Peter Murphy: The Riverwest Public House started as a bar with a mission to be a community meeting place. Rather than just having shows and typical bar venue fodder, we wanted to do something more intellectual or academic and informative. That’s how Night School came to be. There’s a socialist tradition of doing night schools for people, far more organized than what we do. It goes back to the Turners—they did everything from basketball to knitting to political stuff like we do.

Paul Kjelland: One of the core things we discussed when we were getting the series off the ground was how we can have intellectual conversation, but in a way that also has outlets for action. So when we organize with groups or individuals that have more of an activist slant to them, we try to tie Night School into real life actions so they have somewhere to place that energy.


Paul, tell us about your panel at INOVA.

PK: That was in connection with the Mary Nohl Fellowship. I had to do a public event. Instead of doing an artist talk or something like that, I wanted to organize a conversation in the vein of what we do here at the Public House. I had a panel of different artists and activists that deal with racial issues and segregation, community organizing and art, and just had a really open, free-form conversation. It addressed some of the reasons that Milwaukee continues to be one of the most segregated cities in our country. We went through what people are doing about it, how artists and activists can work together to address social issues—segregation in specific, but collaborating in general.


What’s next for Night School?

PK: We’re currently in the middle of organizing a series that deals with women’s issues, everything from sexual health and identity to medical and physical discussions. That’s also an open-ended series, organized and curated by Kelly Todd.

PM: As Night School has evolved, we’ve started doing partnerships and series that are trying to connect the dots, so to speak. Rather than just have one or two people come speak for an hour, we’ll have a group with an end in mind, so this can be a venue to link people.

PK: It’s much more of an organizing tool.

PM: And I think that is an awesome progression. It’s certainly inspiring to be part of that, when you see it happening, rather than just a static night of info.


Night School’s “Radical Shaping of Milwaukee” series continues with Part V: “From Flowers to Garden Homes: the work of Charles B. Whitnall in Milwaukee,” 6 p.m., Sunday, March 9; and Part VI: “The Young Left and the Making of the CIO in Milwaukee,” 6 p.m., Thursday, March 27. There will also be a Night School live debate titled “Would Legalization of Prostitution Help or Hurt Sex Workers in Milwaukee?” at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 30. All events are at the Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust St.












TAGS: Night School, Paul Kjelland, Peter Murphy, Tea Krulos, Riverwest Public House, Radical Shaping of Milwaukee, Intersectionality of Homelessness, Step By Step Collective, Kelly Todd, Radical Shaping of Milwaukee Part V: “From Flowers to Garden Homes: the work of Charles B. Whitnall in Milwaukee,” Radical Shaping of Milwaukee Part VI: “The Young Left and the Making of the CIO in Milwaukee,” “Would Legalization of Prostitution Help or Hurt Sex Workers in Milwaukee?”






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