Arts Council Launches Innovative Mobile ArtSpace
By Sarah Bennett

When the Mobile ArtSpace first gets dropped in the middle of an empty dirt lot, you might think it doesn’t look like much. But when the sun sets, the box is illuminated to become a light and sound sculpture. A compact black industrial cube with a perforated pattern, an LED display constantly emanates a remixed soundtrack of previous performances – that then slowly unfolds to reveal so much more.

Out of the box comes a high-flying helium balloon, the ‘beacon,’ which will be visible to the surrounding community and serves as an ad or marquee for what’s coming. After the beacon, the box unfolds to form a cruciform stage. Connected by demountable hinges, it can support a wide array of stage and audience configurations. Lastly, there is the cloud canopy, comprised of cables and more helium balloons that can accommodate lighting and backdrop for the performances below.

When built, this innovative – and completely unprecedented – mobile performance venue will be used by everyone from the Long Beach Opera to The Jazz Angels to the Khmer Arts Academy to bring the arts to the people of Long Beach in ways never attempted before.

“The real genius of the project is the Arts Council’s initial concept – that you don’t have to go to an opera house or gallery to see art. Instead, the Mobile ArtSpace will bring the arts into a more direct dialogue with communities that don’t have the same access to the arts,” Wil Carson, design principal at 64North, said. “This kind of access to the arts will take vacant lots that are void or negative within the city fabric and make those an asset.”

Designed by a multidisciplinary team of artists and designers led by L.A. architecture firm 64North, the Mobile ArtSpace is a project initiated by the Arts Council for Long Beach, which will catapult the arts into a more direct engagement with an extraordinarily diverse community across all of Long Beach’s nine council districts, in surrounding cities including Compton, East Los Angeles, San Bernardino, as well as other California cities.

In addition to being a platform for art and performance, the Mobile ArtSpace can also serve as an important place of civic dialogue, a place for town hall meetings, symposia and informal community gatherings.

No matter where it goes, the promise of the Mobile ArtSpace is one of education, entertainment and dialogue. Each weekend over the course of the year, the industrial-looking box will travel from site to site throughout the city, opening to reveal a pop-up forum for artistic performance, community engagement and placemaking. With the temporary venue a feat of technological mastery and a work of art in itself, the Mobile ArtSpace’s programming and impact extends both before, during and after performances.

“The Mobile ArtSpace frees art from the confines of institutional ivory towers and allows it to dance in the streets throughout the city,” Arts Council President Marco Schindelmann said.

The capital campaign was launched with the October 9 announcement, and the Mobile ArtSpace performances are expected to commence in a few years.