The Food Truck of the Art World: An Interview with the Founder of Art Cart

08/14/2012 11:05 AM |

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Founded in 2010 by Hannah Flegelman, Art Cart NYC is a mobile exhibition space that encourages people to think imaginatively about exhibiting and experiencing art. Art Cart works with emerging artists to stage contemporary art installations around the parameters of a truck.

After participating in the Fab! Festival and Block Party and the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City, Flegelman teamed up with sisters Liz and Genevieve Dimmitt, founders of their own mobile spaces Etta Place and El Camino ARTRV, to organize Truck Yeah™: A Mobile Meet Up. Truck Yeah events bring together a group of trucks (art, fashion, music, design, and of course, food) to celebrate mobile arts and culture in NYC. Truck Yeah recently hosted a mobile meet up at Pine Box Rock Shop as part of Bushwick Open Studios 2012, featuring artists Allie Pohl, Ann Liv Young as Sherry, B. Thom Stevenson, Brooke David and the Brooklyn Art Library.

THE L: Could you tell me about how you got the idea for Art Cart and what influenced your decision to go this way with an art entrepreneurship project?

Hannah Flegelman: I came up with the idea entering my senior year of college. I had just spent the last 3-4 years interning in the art world, primarily in places that were heavily involved with the art market, like Christie’s auction house, Paula Cooper Gallery and a corporate art advisory firm that managed the art collection for Goldman Sachs. I found that by the time I reached my senior year, I was getting very frustrated with the art market and how art-making was, in my opinion, feeling cramped or stifled because young artists were compromising their practice by inhibiting their work so it would look like others’. We’re at a place in the art world where there are so many artists and so many galleries, that to make it as an artist is such a difficult process that a lot of artists don’t have the opportunity to show their work in respected places, and respected places can’t take on a new artist unless he or she has shown their work.

By the time I hit my senior year, it was the economic downturn and I was reading a lot about mobile food culture and pop up shops because so many buildings in the Lower East Side at the time were doing pop up shows to fill all the empty spaces that nobody could afford to buy or rent. They used these exhibitions to fill vacated real estate space, and I realized what I wanted to do was create an opportunity for emerging artists to show their work so that they could continue to build their resumes and do something that wasn’t expected—not make a single painting that was hung on a wall in a gallery that would get sold to some collector, but instead to think about people, about the environment, about external factors that aren’t going through your head when you’re isolated in your studio making something for a white gallery space.

That’s how Art Cart started. I wanted to find a way to give new artists a chance to show their work, and on the flip side, to give young people like us a chance to appreciate art without the assumption that art is a closed world and that if you really want to see good art, you have to get into the Christie’s auction or you have to get dressed up to go to Chelsea and expect that the girl at reception will be rude to you. I wanted to break that down so that young people can realize that appreciating art and all aspects of culture doesn’t have to be such a high-brow thing, that it’s really something that we can all share, and should share.

THE L: Do you know if there were art trucks or anything similar before Art Cart?

HF: I couldn’t find one. I’d heard that there was something in San Francisco that in some way involved art in a truck, though I didn’t know much about it. My inspiration mostly came from food trucks. I had wanted to create a scavenger hunt where I would tweet where I was and people would come find me and I would tweet again if the truck moved, which is exactly what the food trucks were doing. I hadn’t heard of any other art trucks, but now there are maybe 10 or 15 of them.

THE L: So where do you take the truck? Do you have a place or an area that you prefer?

HF: So far, I don’t own a truck. Whenever I host an Art Cart event, I’m renting a truck. The easiest way to put on these shows is to participate in larger festivals that have already taken out permits.

The show in October was the first time we did a show that was solely ours. It was really difficult. I’m learning that being in Brooklyn has been better and easier for us. Not only are the communities here really receptive to these kinds of shows and events, but it is also logistically easier to be here. In Manhattan there are a lot of regulations, for permits, everybody’s on heightened awareness—will the cops come find us? Are we going to get kicked out? Or fined? At Bushwick Open Studios, that was the first time we parked on a street that wasn’t shut down for us.

THE L: That’s a big step.

HF: Yeah, we spent two nights prior to the event putting our own cones out and constantly checking on the spots, and bringing our truck there and back, moving things around, making friends with the neighbors to smooth everything over. There’s a lot involved.