A chat with MENSK about those mobile shows

The truck stops here
By ANNIE LARMON  |  December 15, 2010

art_mensk_truckmap_main
GROUPSOURCING Making a collaborative map of Portland, on this past First Friday.

The gripe I hear most regularly about the Portland art scene laments the lack of alternative or DIY art spaces that really invite experimentation. This is not a new sentiment, and over the years artists have come up with various temporary fixes to this problem. One fixture of the last decade on the alternative front has been Truck Shows, first organized by artists Carl Haase, Bob Smith, and Eli Cayer in pre-arts district 2001. The group of artists, calling themselves FAZE, hosted a series of art events that helped to develop the arts district as we know it today. While the art scene in Portland has flourished, the truck shows have remained a radical, er, vehicle for the presentation of art in Portland, now curated by local nonprofit Mensk. Last month they organized "First Friday Memory Walk," transforming the interior of a 10-foot U-Haul truck into a hand-drawn map of Portland. Viewers were encouraged to write a personal memory on a sticky note and affix it on the map in the location the experience took place, creating a collective experiential geography and subjective history of Portland. The Phoenix sat down with Mensk board member Louisa Donelson to discuss new directions for the roving gallery.

CURATION OF THE SHOWS HAS SHIFTED OVER THE YEARS, FROM SOLO SHOWS TO FILM SCREENINGS TO INTERACTIVE HAPPENINGS. WHO IS CURATING THE SHOWS NOW AND IS THERE A LARGER THESIS OR SPECIALIZED INTEREST FOR HOW THE SHOWS CAN FUNCTION IN PORTLAND? We are currently accepting proposals. Including bands, film, 2-D, sculpture, theater and dance, etc. Our most recent "First Friday Memory Walk" was an idea from the four current board members. We knew we wanted to do something Portland-specific and make a collaborative project, so the map idea came about. Interactive and collaborative projects can be tricky because of the push-back from people who think "I am not an artist." Writing a memory on a sticky note and affixing it to a location on a map is a simple enough act, so we were able to really invite and engage with all demographics, children included.

HOW ARE THE SHOWS PROVIDING SOMETHING ALTERNATIVE TO WHAT IS OFFERED BY THE ESTABLISHED GALLERIES? The shows are a way for artists without galleries to get exposure and create a dialogue about their work. We're not so much about who and what, but more about support and exposure. The shows are in constant flux; with unexpected visitors there is never a certain crowd or clique. It's a happening; you don't know what to expect. The truck is not a four-walled gallery, but more like three walls and then the world of Portland. The truck is the smallest gallery in Portland. We use that confinement to think out of the box. It impacts the artist's process and ideas of how to curate. That said, we aren't opposed to having art just hanging on the wall.

THE TRUCKS HAVE COME OUT MOSTLY JUST ON FIRST FRIDAYS — ARE THERE PLANS TO EXTEND THIS SCHEDULE? GUERILLA TRUCK SHOWS? IT SEEMS LIKE THERE IS A LOT OF POTENTIAL FOR INTERVENTIONS AND HAPPENINGS TO ACTIVATE OR ENGAGE OVERLOOKED OR UNPRETTY SPACES IN THE PORTLAND AREA. We intentionally haven't set guidelines or boundaries, as to not limit ourselves or collaborating artists' ideas. So yes, anything is possible! We are looking into the idea of a show in Biddeford and also alternatives to U-Hauls (local company trucks, trains, boats).

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Related: Treasure trove, Review: Be more Curious at SPACE Gallery, Traveling critic seeks art to review, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Museums, Bob Smith, Eli Cayer,  More more >
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