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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A Playlist From The iPod Of A Middle Schooler In 2007

I will always love you, Akon.
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Something happened today that I never thought in a million years would happen. I opened up a drawer at my parents' house and I found my pink, 4th generation iPod Nano. I had not seen this thing since I graduated from the 8th grade, and the headphones have not left my ears since I pulled it out of that drawer. It's funny to me how music can take you back. You listen to a song and suddenly you're wearing a pair of gauchos, sitting on the bleachers in a gym somewhere, avoiding boys at all cost at your seventh grade dance. So if you were around in 2007 and feel like reminiscing, here is a playlist straight from the iPod of a middle schooler in 2007.

1. "Bad Day" — Daniel Powter

2. "Hips Don't Lie" — Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean

SEE ALSO: 23 Iconic Disney Channel Moments We Will Never Forget

3. "Unwritten" — Natasha Bedingfield

4. "Run It!" — Chris Brown

5. "Girlfriend" — Avril Lavigne

6. "Move Along" — All-American Rejects

7. "Fergalicious" — Fergie

8. "Every Time We Touch" — Cascada

9. "Ms. New Booty" — Bubba Sparxxx

10. "Chain Hang Low" — Jibbs

11. "Smack That" — Akon ft. Eminem

12. "Waiting on the World to Change" — John Mayer

13. "Stupid Girls" — Pink

14. "Irreplaceable" — Beyonce

15. "Umbrella" — Rihanna ft. Jay-Z

16. "Don't Matter" — Akon

17. "Party Like A Rockstar" — Shop Boyz

18. "This Is Why I'm Hot" — Mims

19. "Beautiful Girls" — Sean Kingston

20. "Bartender" — T-Pain

21. "Pop, Lock and Drop It" — Huey

22. "Wait For You" — Elliot Yamin

23. "Lips Of An Angel" — Hinder

24. "Face Down" — Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

25. "Chasing Cars" — Snow Patrol

26. "No One" — Alicia Keys

27. "Cyclone" — Baby Bash ft. T-Pain

28. "Crank That" — Soulja Boy

29. "Kiss Kiss" — Chris Brown

SEE ALSO: 20 Of The Best 2000's Tunes We Still Know Every Word To

30. "Lip Gloss" — Lil' Mama

Cover Image Credit: http://nd01.jxs.cz/368/634/c6501cc7f9_18850334_o2.jpg

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My AP Environmental Science Class' Cookie Mining Experiment Shows Why Capitalism Is Destroying The Planet

Who cares about the environment with profits this high?

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With the AP exams in May approaching quickly, my AP Environmental Science class has wasted no time in jumping right into labs. To demonstrate the damage to the environment done by strip mining, we were instructed to remove the chocolate chips from cookies.

The experiment in itself was rather simple. We profited from fully or partially extracted chips ($8 for a full piece and $4 for a partial) and lost from buying tools, using time and area and incurring fines.

This might seem simplistic, but it showcased the nature of disastrous fossil fuel companies.

We were fined a $1 per minute we spent mining. It cost $4 per tool we bought (either tweezers or paper clips) and 50 cents for every square centimeter of cookie we mined.

Despite the seemingly overbearing charges compared to the sole way to profit, it was actually really easy to profit.

If we found even a partial chocolate chip per minute, that's $3 profit or utilization elsewhere. Tools were an investment that could be made up each with a partial chip, and clearly we were able to find much, much more than just one partial chip per tool.

Perhaps the most disproportionally easiest thing to get around were the fines. We were liable to be fined for habitat destruction, dangerous mining conditions with faulty tools, clutter, mess and noise level. No one in the class got fined for noise level nor faulty tools, but we got hit with habitat destruction and clutter, both of which added up to a mere $6.

We managed to avoid higher fines by deceiving our teacher by pushing together the broken cookie landscapes and swiping away the majority of our mess before being examined for fining purposes. This was amidst all of our cookies being broken into at least three portions.

After finding many, many chips, despite the costs of mining, we profited over $100. We earned a Franklin for destroying our sugary environment.

We weren't even the worst group.

It was kind of funny the situations other groups simulated to their cookies. We were meant to represent strip mining, but one group decided to represent mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is where companies go to extract resources from the tops of mountains via explosions to literally blow the tops off. This group did this by literally pulverizing their cookies to bits and pieces with their fists.

They incurred the maximum fine of $45. They didn't profit $100, however.

They profited over $500 dollars.

In the context of our environmental science class, these situations were anywhere from funny to satisfying. In the context of the real world, however, the consequences are devastating our environment.

Without even mentioning the current trajectory we're on approaching a near irreversible global temperature increase even if we took drastic measures this moment, mining and fracking is literally destroying ecosystems.



We think of earthquakes as creating mass amounts of sudden movement and unholy deep trenches as they fracture our crust. With dangerous mining habits, we do this ourselves.

Bigger companies not even related to mining end up destroying the planet and even hundreds of thousands of lives. ExxonMobil, BP? Still thriving in business after serial oil spills over the course of their operation. Purdue Pharma, the company who has misled the medical community for decades about the effects of OxyContin and its potential for abuse, is still running and ruining multitudes more lives every single day.

Did these companies receive fines? Yes.

But their business model is too profitable to make the fines have just about any effect upon their operation.

In our cookie mining simulation, we found that completely obliterating the landscape was much more profitable than being careful and walking on eggshells around the laws. Large, too-big-to-fail companies have held the future of our planet in their greedy paws and have likewise pulverized our environment, soon enough to be unable to return from.

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