Expression express: A gallery in a vintage trailer aims to spread the joy of art and community

POPP=D ART the brainchild of Tri-State trio

CINCINNATI -- Taking a different approach to showcasing art, three local artists have transformed a 1963 Caravan camper into a tiny mobile art gallery named POPP=D ART.

And although POPP=D ART might be small, it certainly doesn't lack the ability to fulfill its mission of bringing art and all it encompasses to different neighborhoods and events throughout the Tri-State.

Founders Ben Jason Neal, Melissa Mitchell and Janet Creekmore initially employed the camper just as a traveling art gallery. But as POPP=D continues to evolve, the use of the camper is changing.

"POPP=D is so much more than a gallery. It's also intended to serve as a shop, a project space, a place to interact and a place to gather," Mitchell said.

The goal of the company is to increase community interaction using the power of art within public spaces in a unique and vibrant way. "We're making art fun," Creekmore said, who is herself an artist and responsible for helping pitch the idea of POPP=D ART to People's Liberty, a philanthropic organization in Cincinnati. People's Liberty awarded the three creatives $10,000 in October 2015, affording them to literally take their show on the road.

Janet Creekmore (from left), Ben Jason Neal and Melissa Mitchell, founders of POPP=D ART, pose inside People's Liberty with the collaborative painting to which hundreds contributed.

With bright green Astro-Turf in front of the camper, lawn chairs placed out front and the three smiling faces of Neal, Mitchell and Creekmore, people are intrigued to check out the place and discover its treasures. "I think the POPP=D ART experience is first a question mark because you're going to see this and be like ‘What is this?' " Creekmore said.

As soon as one steps in the small space where only a handful of people can fit at one time, those who explore POPP=D ART fall in love with it.

Neal adds, "On the outside of the trailer, we hang a collaborative painting where anyone is welcome to pick up a paintbrush and contribute." This week, the trio delivered this collaborative piece of art to People's Liberty. The painting, now with up to 30 layers of paint, will hang there indefinitely.

During the last year, POPP=D ART has rolled its way throughout the Tri-State, participating in events such as The City Flea and making stops in neighborhoods where residents may not have the opportunity to engage with the arts.

"Art and all it encompasses is an easy first step in helping to build a community's economic vitality," Creekmore said.

Next month POPP=D ART will head to Hamilton as part of a two-week-long art show titled "INTRUDE" at Pyramid Hill.

"This is going to be such a fun collaborative event and we're making great changes to the Caravan specifically for this event," said Mitchell.

The gallery wasn't always on wheels. In 2013, the creative trio started with a pop-up gallery housed in a vacant building on Short Vine in Corryville.

"We had this great idea to create a pop-up gallery," Neal said. "At the time, Short Vine and that entire area was under construction and being redeveloped, so when we were rallying for support and reached out to other businesses in the area, they were happy to have us."

The pop-up gallery continued for two years before the trio was asked to vacate the premises.

After the two-year run, POPP=D ART had gained quite the following. "People started coming to the shows and bringing friends and it was really just too good of a start to stop," Creekmore said.

At the time, Neal had a vintage camper parked in his driveway, which was given to him from his sister.

"My older sister found this 1963 Caravan. She used it for a couple of years and decided it was too small," he said. "So she asked me if I wanted it and I was like, 'Yeah I want it!' I thought if anything my kids would play in it. So it sat in my driveway for a couple of years and then I thought 'What am I going to do with this thing?' Now it's something useful."

To follow their journey, visit poppedart.gallery or give them a like on Facebook.

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