Monday, March 18, 2013

Laura Gapske, Minerva and the Roller Dames

Laura Gapske is co-founder of the local feminist zine titled Minerva. Minerva is striking for its in-your-face approach and creative imagery, hence my interest in learning more about its creators. Gapske shared openly and without reservation.

EN: What’s the story behind Minerva? How did it begin? How long has it been in publication?
Laura Gapske: I researched zines for months via ordering independent publications from a Chicago comic store distributor. I also had an author/ professor from UWS share with me her collection of local feminist zines which were printed in the late 90’s. I realized the majority of fringe publishers were exiguous which gave them a laudable quality. This generated motivation to start my own after being inspired by stories and the heroine-like quality writing I consumed.

In 2007, I proposed an independent study course to create Minerva zine, to publish, curate, and organize student submissions for content. We published almost monthly the spring and fall semesters of 2008. I had more than ten student contributors and anonymous writers. Minerva had an academic focus from 2007-2008 with a university calendar of events and student polling on feminist issues.

After college, my friend and local artist, Lindsey Graskey and I decided to continue publishing Minerva. We printed two zines independently with three contributors. Unfortunately, I became preoccupied with life events and my career. I diverged as a single mother and it became a frivolous expense for my household. The zine was a project we both had a veneration to continue but lacked resources.

Lindsey and I were moxie to find the time and financial support to print Minerva again. Last year, with the help of Andy Perfetti at Goin’ Postal, we were able to afford to print small quantities of the zine again. We have consistently produced a zine every two or three months since establishing this relationship. Minerva had its first annual Minerva Zine Party with music by Christine Hoberg at Ochre Ghost Gallery in December. The party turned out a huge success and brought eminence to the zine. The show displayed a range of constituent art by new and old zine contributors. Last month, I published our fourteenth zine which is a manifestation of the longevity and triumph of Minerva.

EN: What is the mission of Minerva?
LG: The mission of Minerva is to empower women, educate others, and encourage consciousness-raising on issues relevant to us by the use of art, collage, images and words. If anyone is interested in more information about the zine or want to submit their work for publication, please check out www.minervazine.com.

EN: Do you consider yourself a writer first or an activist?
LG: I consider myself a writer and an activist due to the nature of works I publish. Typically, I write articles focused on social injustice against women and the criminal justice system or other feminist academic topics. I have contributed prose/collage pieces about relationships and my childhood experience with violence. This is where I find the zine the most advantageous in my personal life; it’s an open and accepting forum to tell one’s story. Numerous times throughout printing Minerva, I’ve been approached by readers who share they relate to the contributor’s writings. It’s a way to create a kinship with readers especially for women in our community. The zine material provokes empowering perspectives. I strongly believe our contributors mutually benefit from hearing readers are encouraged by them to speak up and become involved.

In her role as Killah Cletah
EN: How did you get involved in Roller Derby? That’s not a typical avocation.
LG: I found out about our local roller derby league through a mutual friend. She encouraged me to attend a Wednesday practice at the World of Wheels. I did. I used rental skates and borrowed equipment to do laps around the rink while I watched fierce women duke it out playing Queen of the Rink. I was instantly infused by their feminine wiles and tenacious personalities so I knew I had to come back. The next week, I had already purchased my own gear and had ordered skates. I figured out quickly I’m quite fast on roller skates. I have been roistered as a jammer and blocker for the Harbor City Roller Dames (HCRD) since that time. It’s been an incredible journey playing roller derby. I boldly claim that the women on our team are the most beautiful, talented, and intelligent group of women in town.

EN: Do the Derby girls receive any payment for the entertainment they bring?
LG: The Harbor City Roller Dames do not receive payment for playing roller derby. We pay out of pocket to play which includes skater’s dues for rental fees, equipment, jerseys, WFTDA insurance, and travel expenses. The league’s major expense is bout production at the DECC, where we host our visiting teams from around the Mid-West. HCRD’s have a Board of Directors which vote on business decisions and includes a sponsorship chair who actively seeks local sponsors to assist us with the expenses of operating a small business. I have served on the board for two years and am proud of the financial decisions we have made to augment our league’s financial situation. Our league’s mission is not only about playing roller derby, we also organize skater’s to volunteer their time at local charity events and donate proceeds from our bouts to local charities such as the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse, Habitat for Humanity, Polar Bear Plunge, Damiano Center’s Kid’s Café, and other agencies which benefit women and children. For more information about the Harbor City Roller Dames go to www.harborcityrollerdames.com 

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