Mobile pop-up art expands artists' creativity
Start-up ventures are catching speed as entertainment on wheels, and from food trucks to trunk shows, they can pop up anywhere without the binds of a geographical context.
Six months ago, UCF art history graduate Halee Sommer set out on a mission to fulfill a dream. But being fresh out of college with limited funds, she turned to creativity to reach her goals.
"It was a shower thought, a pipe dream if you will," Sommer said. "I had been working in gallery spaces and I'd wanted to open my own, but it's a bit of an unrealistic goal to open my own gallery, so I wanted to break the context of what a gallery could exist in."
The end result was a mobile art truck missioned to shatter the barrier between a distant art world and local communities.
Art Mobile transforms a moving truck into a cultural, mobile pop-up gallery, providing easy access to local art in diverse neighborhoods in Orlando.
"We like to think that we are exposing the entire community in Orlando to art they wouldn't have seen before because we're bringing it to them," Sommer said. "We're not recruiting an audience. Our goal is to be part of the audience. We want to inspire and support the local art community that exists."
The Art Mobile team, composed of a U-HAUL truck and five eager women, has set up pop-up art installations at events ranging from indoor gallery expositions to this year's Florida Film Festival opening night party.
"Halee is bringing art to people," said interdisciplinary studies senior Alana O'Neill, who was a featured artist at Art Mobile's Florida Film Festival event. "These people didn't go out to see art, but to have fun, and art is sometimes a closed-off community, so their efforts are bringing art to people who wouldn't normally seek it out on their own."
Ilenia Colon, an assistant professor of art history at UCF, described Art Mobile as a brilliant idea that breaks the structure of the gallery and museum.
"Taking art anywhere and making it available to anyone is incredibly innovative," Colon said.
Bringing art to doorsteps, along with providing an accessible outlet for local artists, is part of a general effort to unite the art community.
"Everyone wants to bring the community closer together, and what better way to do it than with collaborative events that appreciate and highlight local art?" said Flor Angel Vargas, a member of the Art Mobile team.
For O'Neill, an amateur nature photographer, the Art Mobile truck served as the platform to sell her photographs for the first time.
"I had never had my photographs shown and I actually got to sell some of them, which was really awesome," O'Neill said.
Some of the project's greatest support has come from the same place that brought the Art Mobile team together: a contemporary photography gallery called Snap!.
For Art Mobile's debut event, the team was invited to do a collaborative pop-up show at Snap!'s first-year anniversary showcase.
"They draw in such a good crowd, so we were pretty nervous to showcase, but they were rooting us on throughout the entire experience," Vargas said. "It was awesome to have our first experience with the people that we admire the most here in Orlando."
Snap! continues to serve as a networking platform connecting the pop-up studio with local artists, such as Chris Tobar, who said Art Mobile effectively helps artists increase local exposure.
"Our generation wants everything right now, and to be a part of that, you need to be in your audience's face," Tobar said. "You have to pop up wherever you can and make people see you."
But simply "popping up" is often harder than it seems, and Vargas said it requires patience and ingenuity.
"You have to be very flexible," she said. "Setting up in the back of a U-HAUL can be very frustrating because it gets really hot. Not everything works out how we see it in our head, but we always have to come up with new creative ways on the spot to make things work and make the exhibit perfect. It takes patience and a unique way of thinking and problem solving."
Setting up and launching Art Mobile to success has been a process of challenges and solutions every step of the way.
"The disadvantage to a mobile gallery is that we don't stay open for very long, just a night, which is not really enough time for people to make a connection with the artwork — enough to purchase," Sommer said.
Sommer, Vargas and the rest of the Art Mobile team share similar goals of opening their own galleries in the future, and are gaining the experience they need to further pursue their goals.
"I would love to see Art Mobile expand to an indoor gallery because that's where we all see each other in the future," Vargas said.
But until then, Sommer said Art Mobile has provided the vehicle for realizing personal dreams at an earlier age than expected.
"Opportunities have changed dramatically for people who have just graduated. It's not easy to get your dream job when you graduate, and this mobile trend is a way to facilitate your dreams quicker," she said.
As mobile start-ups continue to pop up across cities everywhere, Sommer said she thinks it's a reflection of her peers' driven attitude.
Daniela Marin is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.