New York ‘s art scene is inherently nomadic, migrating across the city from SoHo to Williamsburg, Bushwick and the Bronx searching out affordable spaces in which to create, exhibit and perform. These days though, even artists willing to uproot are finding cheap rents nearly impossible to come by, no matter how remote the real estate. Rather than scour the city, some artists are finding creative freedom on four wheels. Art trucks, somewhat like food trucks before them, are gaining momentum among a creative sect willing to leave brick and mortar behind for a more mobile existence.
Jean Ann Douglass and Eric John Meyer, co-founders of The Truck Project and early adopters of the mobile art movement, are currently staging a pair of short plays out of the back of a 24-foot rental truck in Williamsburg.
Ticket holders get directions to their four-wheeled theater four hours before the curtain goes up, which in this case is an industrial rolling door. Space, as you can imagine, is limited. Sixteen people at a time file into the parked truck’s cargo hold for a 30-minute play, followed by a 15-minute intermission at a nearby bar and then a second 30-minute play back in the truck. Both pieces were written and are performed by Douglass and Meyer, who make it a habit to grab a drink with their audience after the show to discuss the intricacies of creating art in an automobile.
“It helps us under-promise and over-deliver,” Meyer says. “You don’t expect all that much from theater that’s in the back of a truck. Most people get excited about it because of the novelty. When the artistic quality is also high, it’s a great surprise.”
When Cara Reynolds and Maria-Emilia Borja decided to convert a box truck into an art shop on wheels, they were concerned with keeping their overhead down. The two women are the co-founders of Mushpa y Mensa, a small eco-boutique through which they sell their own illustrations screenprinted on organic cotton T-shirts, jewelry and decorative arts created from recycled plastic bottles. Their art truck, which they’ve named Maya, is without precedent–and without permits.
“There are only a few handfuls of us, and we all struggle with the same issue,” Reynolds says of the art truck movement. “In NYC, a rental space is incredibly expensive, and a huge investment in itself. We can either pay for a space at a market, or take a risk, park in a corner and potentially get a fine. It’s like the wild west in a sense. No regulations, equals no laws, which equals no permits.”
Like food trucks before them, these art trucks are reacting to sky high real estate prices that make renting a space next to impossible. “Retail in a truck, or in our case, art in a truck, is something NYC will have to deal with eventually,” says Reynolds. “The fact of the matter is that this is the most affordable way to do this for us at this moment in time. For us, a truck is a creative way to overcome this obstacle in our path.”
As artists though, Mushpa y Mensa and The Truck project aren’t simply finding a clever workaround to high rents, they’re incorporating their surroundings into the experience of their work. “Theater in trucks isn’t for everyone,” says Douglass. “But for the adventure-seekers that make up our audience, the crazier the elements, the better.”
Can’t we deport these dummies to Afghanistan or the Korean DMZ or something? They can be the first wave, used to absorb as much 7.62 as they can while real Americans ingress behind them
Last I checked, we don’t choose to serve in order to advertise things like this on a comment section. Do my beloved Corps, yourself, and me a favor, and don’t reduce your sacrifice or mine to arguing something so ridiculous on the internet and advertising the loss of friends and the taking of lives. Show some professionalism and stop making a fool of yourself. We all go through tough shit, but we asked for it, and part of the job and sacrifice is the humility to stay quiet about it, not cry out for attention and recognition. There are different outlets and times to do that.
haha you deleted my comment! Sorry to hurt your feelings but I am impelled to speak up when I see concrete examples of the decline and decay of this city, country, and humanity in general… I did not kill 32 Iraqis (or lose 6 of my brothers) so these people can drive around making “decorative arts” out of trash. Do you think they even know or appreciate that people had to die for their gasoline?
You reinstated my original comment, thank you. You all need to know that this isn’t a party and there’s no whimsy to be found in holding your screaming legless friend as he bleeds out… You want adventure and craziness? PICK UP AN M4
You mean went to Iraq and killed brown people for the Kochs, Halliburton, and all your other corporate masters, right?
FLR: Huh? Who? OK you read something or saw a talking head on tv and you’re mad about “the Kochs, Halliburton, evil corporate masters” etc… What have you done to oppose them? Did you take to the streets with a rifle or perhaps seek office and pass legislation to shut them down? Or is the limit of your dissent typing some confused nonsense on an iPhone? I’m Hispanic and there were plenty of other “brown” people in my unit. Brown/Black/Yellow/White, color made no difference to us… something it sadly sounds like you’ve never experienced. Next time you attack a keyboard please think about what you say and employ a little empiricism rather than reciting words from a piece of paper you read somewhere
Sheesh, shut up dude. None of this affects you at all, so what if you hate rolling art trucks. You would be much more at home in Best Korea or Iraq than these people. You were made for Sharia laws.
Where’s the art? Maybe this is a way to excuse living in a truck?
Agreed. How did they finance these trucks anyways, and what do they do for income for everyday expenses. I’m a struggling artist as well (singer/actor) but I have an evening secretarial position at a law firm. Is this another case of some kind a allowance limit on mommy & daddy’s credit card? Any youtube links on your short plays?
Can’t speak for the second pair, but both members of the first have 9-5 jobs.