Unpacked: Our Gallery In A Truck

Unpacked: Our Gallery In A Truck

It's even crazier than it sounds.
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Unpacked: Mobile Gallery is an alternative artist-run exhibition space founded as an artis collective in April of 2017. The DIY artist space exhibits innovative artists across disciplines through a “mobile gallery” or “pop-up truck show.” Our truck turned showroom allows for guerrilla art shows around the city of Chicago. Because finding and affording gallery space is typically a difficult and expensive venture, it occurred to this team of DeKalb-based artists that a more cost-effective way to conduct pop-up shows in the city was to rent a truck and find parking. This thrilling communal project allows artists to create their own opportunities to curate, showcase, and have total control over how and where their work is exhibited in a unique and interactive space. Original contributing members include Shane Bowers, Rafael Rocha Jr., Faith Wittrock, Naomi Elson, Samantha Mendoza, Terrance Gray, Noah Kashiani, Jilian Reints, Steven Lockwood, Rebecca Griffith and myself.


We expected a few bumps in our plan but did not anticipate a bumpy ride from DeKalb to Chicago. We ran across our first complication when we rented our moving truck in Chicago the morning of our opening. All previous installations of our gallery walls took place in DeKalb, using a local Penske truck. However, at 70 cents a mile, we decided to drive the walls to the city using Unpacked artist Naomi Elson's van. We were initially pleased with the truck we rented in Chicago, which was in pristine condition because it was brand new. However, it turns out the new model for the 16-foot truck was not built to the exact dimensions of the original truck, which the walls were custom built to fit.

A collective relies on the talents of many, luckily, there was no shortage of smart, creative, problem-solving artists on the scene. Through the efforts of at least three of our members, the walls were installed three hours later than expected, utilizing saws, screws, nails, foam and tape. As the Digital Media Manager for Unpacked, I had put out an official newsletter and Facebook invites promoting our show to start at 4:30 p.m. I can say with certainty, the walls were not successfully in place until closer to 6 p.m.

And the bumps just continued from there! After finally having our gallery walls perfectly lining the bed of the truck, we began our touch ups with white paint. As it turned out, the quart of paint we brought from DeKalb was half a shade off, mudded and ill-fitting to the crisp white we had painted the walls. We could not evenly coat the walls with this less flattering color even if we wanted to because a quart of paint does not go a long way. So an emergency trip to Home Depot was made.

In the meantime, we began to install the wooden beams that held our LED lights suspended from the top of the truck. On our first try we installed the lights backward, so the extension cord would be required to plug in at the very back wall of the gallery, dragging clumsily across the gallery floor. In our attempt to remedy this, one of the wooden beams fell in transit and snapped in half, leaving us panicked and unsure if it would light! It was a near debilitating amount of chaos at this point.

Quickly we screwed the beam back in place (with an additional piece of trim for support) and grabbed the extension cord to see if our lights were too damaged to work. This is when we realized we had unknowingly brought along a broken cord. We called our team member who had just walked out the doors of Home Depot, sending him back in to collect this item.

While he rushed back with paint and a means for electricity, a number of the guests I had invited arrived to see our show. This list included former students, grad school professors, and my boss. To paint you a picture, at this point I was barefoot (heels are never a smart choice) with paint on my hands and an uninstalled show. Mortified but in fight or flight mode, I apologized for our delayed opening and requested that they check out some of the openings in the gallery district, eat, and come back.

Shane Bowers

Deconstructing Identity

The expression on Shane's piece Deconstructing Identity perfectly captures the emotions of our evening.



With each setback, the team was ready with a solution, prepared to fix it. This is all while moving location. We were constantly on the hunt for a better parking spot, closer to the gallery district on Washington and Peoria. This meant splitting tasks from installing the show to finding and saving parking spots in more populated areas of the West Loop. Those who sought better parking worked in pairs. It required two vehicles to save a spot large enough for the moving truck to occupy. Some of our moves took place while the walls were still being worked on. We played street parking musical chairs in within eyesight of the truck so not to be ticketed in the process of moving.



Each time we moved location, I had to update our position over email blasts, Facebook and LinkedIn so our followers could find us. Once fully installed and plugged in, we were delighted to find that each of our LED lights were operating. As a result of quick thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and camaraderie we pulled everything together, though much later than intended.

Was It A Success?

I categorize this experience in two parts. Part One: A Mess, Part Two: Success. Even with our final location (Washington and Peoria, just two blocks South of Carrie Secrist Gallery and Kavi Gupta), we did not gather an astonishing crowd, and those who were marveled by our gallery were not members of our target audience.

Given that our main objective was to broaden our exposure as artists and participate in the art community, we succeeded in our goal. And quite honestly, the tipsy bar-goers may not have been the art enthusiasts, collectors, or artists we intended to meet, but we most certainly did make an impression on them. We were visited by a few prominent members of the Chicago arts community including Associate Director of Carrie Secrist Gallery, Britton Bertran and contemporary artist, Darryll Schiff. Bertran mentioned he recognized the logo on our business cards (points to me, digital media manager and business card designer!) And at the end of the evening we had well over fifty guests (so suggests my dwindling pile of business cards). Ultimately our gallery brought together people from different walks of life to share in a memorable experience and I am proud of what we achieved.

I like to think of May 20th as a soft opening for Unpacked. We have ambitious plans for the future, and with any luck, our trail run will have us well-equipped to smooth out any bumps along the way. In my experience, some of the most difficult things to do are also the most rewarding. So while 75% of the day felt like a downward tailspin, the last 25% felt like we were soaring high.

Please stay tuned for Part Two of this story which goes more in depth on the artwork curated in the show.


To follow our space more closely

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- "Follow" Us on Instagram






Cover Image Credit: Lauren Ike

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7 Reasons Why Literature Is So Important

"Literature Is One Of The Most Interesting And Significant Expressions Of Humanity." -P. T. Barnum
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Today, there are too many people who believe that literature is simply not important or underestimate its abilities to stand the test of time and give us great knowledge. There is a stigma in society that implies one who is more inclined toward science and math will somehow be more successful in life, and that one who is more passionate toward literature and other art forms will be destined to a life of low-paying jobs and unsatisfying careers. Somewhere along the line, the world has come to think that literature is insignificant. To me, however, literature serves as a gateway to learning of the past and expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world. Here are just a few reasons why literature is important.

1. Expanding horizons

First and foremost, literature opens our eyes and makes us see more than just what the front door shows. It helps us realize the wide world outside, surrounding us. With this, we begin to learn, ask questions, and build our intuitions and instincts. We expand our minds.

2. Building critical thinking skills

Many of us learn what critical thinking is in our language arts classes. When we read, we learn to look between the lines. We are taught to find symbols, make connections, find themes, learn about characters. Reading expands these skills, and we begin to look at a sentence with a larger sense of detail and depth and realize the importance of hidden meanings so that we may come to a conclusion.

3. A leap into the past

History and literature are entwined with each other. History is not just about power struggles, wars, names, and dates. It is about people who are products of their time, with their own lives. Today the world is nothing like it was in the 15th century; people have changed largely. Without literature, we would not know about our past, our families, the people who came before and walked on the same ground as us.

4. Appreciation for other cultures and beliefs

Reading about history, anthropology, or religious studies provides a method of learning about cultures and beliefs other than our own. It allows you to understand and experience these other systems of living and other worlds. We get a view of the inside looking out, a personal view and insight into the minds and reasoning of someone else. We can learn, understand, and appreciate it.

5. Better writing skills

When you open a book, when your eyes read the words and you take in its contents, do you ask yourself: How did this person imagine and write this? Well, many of those authors, poets, or playwrights used literature to expand their writing.

6. Addressing humanity

All literature, whether it be poems, essays, novels, or short stories, helps us address human nature and conditions which affect all people. These may be the need for growth, doubts and fears of success and failure, the need for friends and family, the goodness of compassion and empathy, trust, or the realization of imperfection. We learn that imperfection is not always bad and that normal can be boring. We learn that life must be lived to the fullest. We need literature in order to connect with our own humanity.

Literature is important and necessary. It provides growth, strengthens our minds and gives us the ability to think outside the box.

Cover Image Credit: google.com/images

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Here's Why You Find Lara Jean The Most Relatable Character Ever

If you haven't seen this movie, you've got to!

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First of all, let's just say this is the cutest teen movie I've ever seen in my life.

All of the characters, while some of them may be a little trope-y, they're done in a way that makes them all authentic, honest and original. I love them all.

Everyone has a back story and is explained well enough that you know what their role is. Some movies don't do this well. Even though you basically know what's going to happen, because, at the end of the day it is still a teen movie, you're going to sob and maybe even scream.

But back to my queen, Lara Jean, and why she's the absolute best

1. She Has Amazing Style

Were y'all keeping up with the fact that she was putting complete and total looks together that entire time? From the socks to the scrunchies, to the shoes; she looked great every single day! I really can't even believe Gen tried to come for her? Rude.

2. Her Best Friend Is Also Cool

Chris AND Lara Jean together?! Stylish, fashionable, hilarious: iconic! 10/10, I love their friendship and how they're the only ones each other trusts. The way they take care of and look out for one another is great. Plus they both have such great personalities.

3. She Daydreams

I love how Lara Jean lives in her own head. She has all these ideas of what love is because she's read about it and imagined it, but she's never experienced it before. Reminds me of someone I know (me).

4. She Pushes People Away

Not necessarily a positive thing about her, but this makes Lara Jean a real person and less like every other perfect fairytale, teen romance movie to ever be made. She has a problem letting people in and her background and the dialogue in the movie actually explains why.

5. She's Not One Of The Popular Kids

Whenever they make a teen movie, there's always the popular kids and I love when the protagonist/main character isn't one of them. I wasn't one of them in high school, so making movies about the cool kids doesn't make them easy to root for.

6. She's a Person of Color

Do you know how great it is to see a POC as the lead in a teen movie? I watch a lot of these because I'm garbage and it's usually a blonde white girl who's like stereotypically attractive but not "popular," and it just makes the movie harder to relate to. I think having the lead be a person of color makes the movie a little more accessible to more people. Because people who look like Lara Jean can see themselves in her and it's important for young people of all types to be recognized in media so they can feel heard and understood. I just love that!

7. She Wins In The End

Even After Gen was terrible to her the whole movie and she lost Peter, Josh and her own freakin' sister, she eventually gets the boy and repairs her relationship with her best friend and her sister! Ahhh, We love a happy ending!

As I said before, this is truly one of the greatest movies I've seen in a very very very long time. All of the characters are so likable, even Lara Jean's dad. It's like "Mean Girls" but so much cuter and less dramatic.

As a fan of the genre of teen romance, I'm glad a movie like this exists, with a woman of color as the lead and a sad backstory, but a cute and witty family. It's truly all the things I ever wanted in a teen romance.

Thanks, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before."

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