Mobile Civic StudioDecember 1, 2003
In the Fall of 2003 the studio purchased a Coleman Popup Camper Trailer. The trailer was retrofitted for two purposes; use on mobile projects (yet to be determined) and a storage space for studio furniture, tools, and materials.
Despite the Western perception that most people dwell in urban areas, there are still many people throughout the world that live beyond city/town/village borders, far from centers of culture and activity. Though they might own a car, or have other transportation options, living a great distance from an urban center often puts these residents in a difficult position for receiving ‘basic’ services or cross-cultural contacts on a regular basis. Furthermore, the obstacles presented are not merely the result of a physical gap, but might be presented by an individual’s family, tribal leader governing council, or formalized government. However, in countless countries, individuals, groups, and foundations have found creative and efficient ways to address these issues. By implementing mobile units that trek into areas of diminished accessibility, basic needs are fulfilled and more convenient systems of exchange are established.
Perusing Temporary Service’s website, which includes an archive of mobile units worldwide, one might view vehicles that offer medical services such as dentistry, surgery, abortion, blood transfusions, mammograms; or transports that offer books art shows, and movie screenings. Furthermore, units exist that will shred your confidential documents, power-wash your home, lead you in an exercise routine, and test radon in your workplace or home. The possibilities are endless. While some of the mobile units may appear more ‘necessary’ than others, each represents a unique service or experience and encourages new means of interaction and community. By purchasing a reconditioned Coleman Camper, the Gettysburg, the members of Civic Studio are seeking to engage these concepts of mobility and explore its positive and negative effects, primarily in conjunction with Civic Studios in the future.
Our immediate plan is to load the studio’s tools, equipment, and tables into the camper and use it as a storage space, encapsulating the engagement of public art, community histories, and the role of the artist in it all. Next time, however, the Civic Studio members will be equipped with another tool with which to explore these ideas, the Gettysburg camper. While the 2005 studio may have an established location in Grand Rapids, the addition of a mobile unit will allow its members to transport the studio anywhere within driving or pulling distance. Undoubtedly, this affords greater freedoms in terms of physical space, location, and audience. Likewise, the portable element further distances the studio from an institutional setting. These freedoms could be both positive and negative, for with mobility, a whole new set of questions should be asked. Will we use the camper as a way to emphasize our transitional role within communities? Or might its mobility be exploited as a means to make fewer investments and discoveries in the neighborhood? Could the Gettysburg, as a quite small, movable unit, provide a more intimate, personal setting for situating community art projects?
Though relevant to the Alabama implementation, finding answers to these questions will be critical to the success of the next Civic Studio. Simply tackling the difficult issues surrounding public art is a challenge in itself; hopefully, the mobile unit will be a positive addition to this engagement.