More Than Bingo
Card art at Sam Bond’s
by Rachel Coussens
Over the years, Sam Bond’s Garage has hosted more than 280 games of bingo. Players come for the $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon or the unpredictable prizes, such as a Smurf sleeping bag. But bingo isn’t all drinking and shouting “Blackout!” — players also create art. Card art.
Local musician Tom Heinl started Sam Bond’s Garage bingo after hosting other successful entertainment events for the venue. Musician Scott K. joined the team a few years later. “I think some of them started writing on the back and then it just snowballed from there,” Scott says.
Bingo regular Lindsay LePon came up with the idea to display the cards. “There are just so many and I wanted to see them,” she says. “I’ve always been appreciative of this underground art.” Taking the initiative to come up with a system to display the cards, she decided to create three larger bingo cards from the smaller pieces to display the art and not lose sight of the art’s origin. Each arrangement holds five cards by five cards with the center card serving as the usual bingo free space.
LePon, with help from friends, chose cards nearly at random with an emphasis on what LePon calls “the best ones” — the more developed artistic ones — while still honoring other types of cards. Some of the cards are more word-based, containing tags or confessions. “People write bingo confessions at the top of a card and then one to four and leave it open,” LePon says. “[Other] people will write these ridiculous comments.”
“It’s just a snapshot of art that’s happened on these cards over the last five years,” Scott says. Artists and bingo regulars illustrate inside jokes on the cards. For example, the numbers 68, 69 and 70 make up a three-part story. In one such card, the numbers 6 and 8 are made to resemble a couple on a date. The 68 is the first date, and the 69 is dinner for two. “Whenever we call 70, it’s the morning after,” Scott explains.
While flipping through the shoebox sized plastic container of bingo cards, Scott points out a card to LePon. It says, “You are the cutest boy at bingo.” She says, “Actually, I made that one.” Like most of the cards, a story lies behind the art. LePon says that she handed the card to a guy as she was leaving for the night but didn’t get a reaction. She later found out from his roommate that he didn’t flip the card over. When the roommate asked what it said, she refused to explain: “Nope, sorry, that’s just how it works.”
“I think for bingo participants, it’s very fun because they don’t know whose or what card is going to be up there,” Scott says. “Maybe the card I drew on five years ago that once in awhile someone at our table gets that has an inside joke on the back of it is also part of this art instillation.”
The exhibit comes as Sam Bond’s takes a January holiday from the game. From 6 to 8 pm on Saturday, Jan. 23, show designers will reveal 75 different cards from the box. “I wonder if we can do a whole card of unicorns,” Scott says.
On Monday nights in February, bingo will return with the cards from the exhibit in play. “Eventually they will go right back in the game, right back into people’s hands,” Scott says. “It’s just like this living snapshot of this tool we use to hang out.” Players can add on to the existing art or could be surprised with a blank card. Either way, the Sam Bond’s bingo tradition and culture will live on.
“Bingo Cards” runs through Jan. 31 at Sam Bond’s Garage, 407 Blair.