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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Cover Image Credit: Lauren Ike

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11 Things You Understand If You Hate Physical Contact

Please keep your hands and feet away from me at all times.
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We currently live in a world where EVERYONE LIKES TO TOUCH EACH OTHER. People enjoy hugs, high fives, tapping others on the shoulder, pokes, ect. For someone like you and me (I'm assuming you too since you clicked on this article), this is the WORST thing in the world. Whenever I think of someone touching me (even just a poke) without my permission my reaction is like Sofia Vergara in Modern Family.

I mean, when I take that love languages quiz, physical touch is always on the bottom of my preferences. So I thought to my self, you know I can't be the only person in the world that hates physical touching. So here are 11 things every person who hates physical touch will understand:


1. When people tickle you

I don't care that it's just for fun and jokes; I'm not laughing because I want to, you are literally forcing me to laugh. I hate you, get your greasy hands off of me before I make you get them off of me.


2. When people think they need to tap your shoulder to get your attention

As if simply saying "Hey" followed by my name wasn't enough. I don't need your grubby little fingers touching me. Now I'm annoyed with you before this conversation even started, what do you want?


3. When someone you barely know reaches in for a hug

I don't know who the heck you're thinking you're about to hug because it sure isn't going to be me. Hugs are reserved for people I know well and like, not you. Okay release me now, I am not enjoying this. LET ME GO.


4. When people tell you that you aren't an affectionate person

Are you aware there are ways to show my affection without constantly being all over you like a koala bear? Yes, I'm affectionate, hop off.


5. When someone is in your personal space

We could be best friends, we could be complete strangers. We could be lovers, I could hate your guts. We could be in private, we could be in public. I don't care what the situation is, if you're in my personal space uninvited GET OUT. There is no reason to be so close to me unwarranted.


6. You don't know how to comfort people

When you see an upset loved one, most people think they you should comfort then by pulling them into a long lasting hug. But, that's the kind of things that your nightmares are literally made out of. So, you stand there confused how you should comfort your friend/relative while also not sacrificing your touch moral code.


7. When people say you "look like you could use a hug"

Um no. I never could use one, get off of me. I will let you know when I want one.


8. When you're hugging someone wondering how soon you can release

Please end my suffering.


9. When you arrive at a social gathering and people rush to greet you with hugs

Let's not.

10. When you try to leave a social gathering by just waving to get out of goodbye hugs

Please no one make me hug you.


11. That one person who is allowed to hug you/touch you

This person, typically a significant other or best friend, gets to break all the "no touch" rules and we gladly accept their hugs and cuddles and public displays of affection. But only them, no one can copy them.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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12 Classics That All College Students Should Read

Reading is important — yet many people forget about books.

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These are the classics that I think all college students should read.

1. "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

This classic by J.D. Salinger is a staple for many high school kids. Yet, I believe college students should revisit this novel, as it's a great portrayal of adolescence.

2. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Love him or hate him, Jay Gatsby is one of literature's most recognizable characters. "The Great Gatsby" is a tragic story of a man stuck in the past, and a grim warning of the empty happiness money buys.

3. "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells was far beyond his time. His novel, "The Time Machine," explores what would happen if time-travelling could happen. It's both an evocative and frightening tale, full of important philosophical questions.

4. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde 

This novel is about the degradation of Dorian Gray, and his descent into depravity. It showcases one of the greatest character declines in literature. By the end, Dorian Gray finds his life to be empty, his hedonistic lifestyle pointless.

5. "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami 

Haruki Murakami is famous for his surreal novels. "Norwegian Wood" follows a college student in Japan, as he navigates life after a tragedy. It's both beautiful yet melancholy. If nothing else, it'll get you listening to the Beatles' Norwegian Wood.

6. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte 

I consider "Jane Eyre" to be one of the first feminist novels. It's a fantastic Gothic novel about an independent and strong woman — Jane Eyre — who meets the mysterious Mr. Rochester. It's more than a romance — it's a commentary on Victorian societal expectations of women, with Jane representing objection to it.

7. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

This novel is a beautiful story about a girl in Nazi Germany. Liesel Meminger knows the importance of books, and uses her knowledge and kindness to save a Jewish refugee. It's a poignant novel that expresses the importance of literature and books.

8. Any Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

If you've watched the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch, then you should definitely give the novels a go. The mysteries are exciting and intriguing, despite their old age.

9. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

This is one of my absolute favorites novels. It follows a young boy named Pip, who befriends a beggar, meets the depraved Miss Havisham, and falls in love with unattainable Estella. This novel is at once a bildungsroman and a tragedy.

10.  "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov 

This controversial novel by Vladimir Nobokov follows the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a depraved man who falls in love with 12-year-old Lolita. Nobokov showcases his mastery of the English language, while writing a depraved and tragic story following two terrible people.

11.  "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

Perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time, "Pride and Prejudice" stands the test of time by showing how two outwardly opposite and contrary people can come together and form an amazing love. It's about accepting one's flaws and getting to know people beyond surface level.

12.  "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

This is a fantastic novel that depicts the absolute horrors of war, particularly World War I. If this doesn't enlighten you about the realities and horrors of war, then no book will.

Reading is important as it broadens one's horizon. Literature is one of the greatest inventions of mankind.

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