When we started our travelling art experiment we knew that is was quite new: most galleries and museums stay in one spot and the art gets transported from gallery to gallery. Even the new popUP movement do not travel from place to place but popUP in buildings. The camper from Berth was a piece of travelling art but he could not use it as a popUP due to all sort of regulations. The van became a piece of travelling art promoting our art work.
With a new paint scheme “Wanderlust” became as well a promotion vehicle but had now more the function of a travelling gallery. There are some travelling galleries on the road in trucks, campers, caravans or buses; but we had to learn the art of cruising the canals as an art gallery by doing it.
Already after our first popUP we discovered the need of better weather shelter and good presentation. As a ‘show room’ the well deck of the boat was too small and also not weatherproof as the rain is just blowing in through the site opening. The weather also took its toll on the banner we had, here the wind was more the problem. The banner became a sail with a tiny mast which snapped to soon. Even the reinforcement of the ‘mast’ did not help much.
Apart of those technical issues we had no idea how people would react towards bringing art to the towpath and at which places we would meet art lovers. We like the idea of transporting our art to the people instead of the people have to go to the art. However we still had to sell our artistic expressions to eat and feed the boat.
We expected – and with us many other people – we would do well in London as a place of the popUP movement and the city as an art centre. Well, we didn’t succeed. People just passed by or shouted over their mobile “oooh – wow – look at this” – but only very few stopped and even less bought something. We spend some weeks in the capital to find out that it was not the place for us.
At other places we did better. Cassiobury park (near Watford) where we moored rather because of the beauty of the spot and the beech trees, was a good place for business. The park attracts mainly walkers yet the people are taking the time to stop, look and talk. The Cruising Art Gallery was appreciated in more than one way.
Soon we found out we had to promote ourselves better, had to stand out, so our appearance became more of an event than just another interesting boat. In small canal towns like Atherstone or Aylesbury that happened rather than in cities or touristy places like for example Stratford upon Avon. As part of an event like canal festivals we did even better. The floating markets organised by the RTCA were a good push.
It was at Birmingham Floating Market in June that we tried our new weather protection. We didn’t want it too much looking like a market stall – even we do take part in markets – so we tailor made the ‘wings’. The wings work fantastic: we are standing out and our art work is well sheltered from the weather. And it looks “boaty”, as it blends into the appearance like a sail. Additionally the wings store easy and are not bulky. For under £15, some rope and elastic plus the boat pole we had an almost perfect weather shelter.
From June things went better not only thanks to the appearance but also by meeting more people and making contacts with other cruising artists. After the Middlewich floating market we went with an other art boat to Chester to popUP together. It makes the travelling more fun, specially in the wide locks but we also traded a lot better with two boats. We compliment each other and giving people more choice.
After a very successful popUP in Aylesbury in May we made some good contact with the Queens Park Art Centre creating a project for 2015. As you see this year became a true learning year and while it was also a successful year we can continue and take these lessons into the new year.
As a result “Wanderlust” will attend more canal festivals and floating markets. We also will join up with other travelling galleries to make artistic events along the canals with painters, poets, musicians and other artists on boats or moving galleries.