If you see a red Schwinn bicycle cruising the streets of Pittsburgh with what looks like a dresser in tow, you are not witnessing an eco-friendly alternative to a moving van. Instead, it is the city's newest and most innovative museum.
The Mobile Museum is a nomadic, literally artist-powered art exhibit that travels the city displaying the work of local artists in a curiosity-cabinet-style display case.
Ally Reeves, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student and the Mobile Museum's creator, transports the display around Pittsburgh, on the back of her bicycle, setting up near other events or just on street corners. This mobility and guerrilla-style presentation let her engage audiences that might otherwise not be exposed to artistic expression.
"I wanted to think that anybody could get into it," Reeves said. "Suddenly you can reach everyone."
The bike-cart museum, which was partially funded with a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund, is meant to create a dialogue between the artists and the public. Reeves and Alberto Almarza, the artist currently exhibiting his work in the Mobile Museum, stand alongside the display, engaging the audience and discussing the work.
"It lets the people who see the show become part of the show," Reeves says.
Almarza's work for the project, including small "mummies" and a kind of miniature pottery he calls "pok," mirrors the vision of the Mobile Museum: Both are environmentally friendly, require little to no overhead and are as much about action as aesthetics.
"I make miniature sculptures and mixed-media sculptures with reclaimed materials, found objects and natural materials," Almarza says. "If you look at the Mobile Museum in its entirety, the cost of materials is almost zero."
Almarza's quest for sculpting supplies takes him into wooded areas, where he digs up clay and other natural materials, and into the urban jungle, where he digs in a less savory environment.
"I get stuff from CMU Dumpsters and trash night," he says.
A stationary exhibit of Almarza's work is on display through Aug. 20 in the lobby of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
As for the show's mobile component, Reeves says that the only negative reaction involves confusion over the nontraditional nature of the project. But once that's explained, both the artistic cognoscenti and the general public appreciate the Mobile Museum's originality and creativity.
"The response has been really good from all levels or sectors of the community, from people at the Mattress Factory, to people at The Warhol Museum, to kids riding their bikes on the street," Almarza says.
Mobile Museum Appearances include: BikeBike festival, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Fri., Aug. 10 (Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., North Oakland; 412-682-4111); Beleza Café (1501 Buena Vista St., North Side), 8 p.m. Fri., Aug. 10; East End Food Co-op (7516 Meade St., Point Breeze), 7-9 p.m. Sun., Aug. 12; and Carnegie Science Center (North Side; 412-237-3400), noon-4 p.m. Fri., Aug. 17. firstname.lastname@example.org or www.themobilemuseum.com.