Art Cart NYC™: Bringing Culture to the Street
Last spring, Hannah Flegelman and Margaret Knowles founded Art Cart NYC™, a mobile exhibition space that motivates people to think imaginatively about exhibiting and experiencing art. We caught up with then about their vision for Art Cart, their upcoming exhibition and the challenges of being art world entrepreneurs.
What is Art Cart NYC? How did the project come about?
Hannah: Art Cart was born out of an idea I had my senior year of college. I was reading about all of these mobile food carts traveling around New York City and Los Angeles, amassing a following through the use of social media. I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to have, instead of a cart for food, a cart for art!”
It also seemed like a positive addition to the trend I’d been noticing in my own neighborhood (the Lower East Side) of pop-up art exhibitions in empty storefronts and alternative spaces.
Margaret: I came on board because I’d been working on curating an exhibition, and I was looking for a fresh way to present it. Hannah and I had been talking casually about the idea for a while, and I remember the day when we sat down at a coffee shop and finally said, we have a space, we have a show, we think this could be something really big—let’s do it!
So what does that make you, full-time mobile gallerists?
Margaret: Ha! Most certainly not.
Hannah: As wonderful as that might be.
Hannah: In addition to Art Cart, I also manage a private art collection, am getting my Master’s degree from NYU’s Visual Arts Administration program, and volunteer at a yoga studio three times a week. It can get stressful, but it’s definitely worth it.
Margaret: We’ll meet after our jobs, classes, and on days off.
Hannah: Not to mention, we’re constantly in touch throughout the day (perhaps more than we should be…) to make sure everything gets done.
Margaret: The fact that we’re friends means that all our meetings aren’t a burden, but time that we get to spend together. If we’re staying in on a Friday night to create our Broadcastr audio recording, then we’ll make sure to have some energetic music and a bag of Tate’s cookies by our sides to keep us going.
Hannah: We meet up, we gossip about art, and then we get to work!
What are the challenges you've encountered as young entrepreneurs in the art world?
Hannah: I’d say the biggest challenge is that I want to spend time working in so may different places to see how the art world works from every angle. But I also want to dedicate myself to one job and take on more responsibility with each project.
The reality is that there are tons of unpaid internships available for young people in the arts, but fewer opportunities for gratifying full-time positions—especially with the increasing popularity of the art world in mainstream culture.
Margaret: Yeah, you definitely have to pay your dues!
Hannah: This was one of the reasons why I founded Art Cart—I wanted students and young people to have opportunities to create something outside of the classroom and beyond the typical intern tasks. Margaret and I invite young people to do everything from create the work of art itself, to write for the website, design the logo and document the event.
Margaret: My biggest issue has been trying to navigate where my interests lie—I’m still trying to find my place within the overlapping fields of curation, critical studies, and research.
Hannah: There’s definitely a challenge in figuring out how to turn your Art History degree into a career.
What resources and networks have helped you along the way?
Margaret: Collaboration has been a major part of making Art Cart possible. We’re very lucky to be surrounded by a community of artistic people, and we’ve been able to draw upon the talents of our friends and peers who happen to be extraordinary artists, writers, photographers, and graphic designers.
Hannah: It’s also been a big help that both of us have maintained close relationships with the Gallatin School, where we studied, and with the institutions where we’ve interned. Our former supervisors, professors, and colleagues have been encouraging and supportive, and have given us invaluable advice.
Margaret: We also got really lucky with the Fourth Arts Block event. We had been to their block party the year before and thought it would be a great idea to premiere with them. When we reached out, Lauren Parish was kind enough to email us back within10 minutes. We couldn’t have asked for a better organization to take a chance on us!
Hannah: We’ve been equally as fortunate with the New Museum. A friend in my program, who was interning with the New Museum at the time, asked if I’d heard about the upcoming festival in May and connected me to one of the event planners. We were thrilled to hear that Fourth Arts Block was involved in planning festival and had vouched for us to be included!
What advice would you give to young women starting out in the art world? What about staring out as entrepreneurs?
Hannah: I would say I have two pieces of advice. The first is to always be enthusiastic and maintain good relationships with those that you have worked for in the past. Also, never think you’re too good to organize the bookshelf, because everyone has to start somewhere, and more people have done it than you think. Confidence and determination are key, but so are humility and respect.
Margaret: I agree with that 100%. My advice would be to never underestimate the value of optimism. Whether you’re curating a major biennial or making photocopies, a smile, a friendly demeanor, and a sense of humor will get your far. If you remain optimistic, excited about what you’re doing, and are generally a pleasant human being, people will like you.
Hannah & Margaret: Finally—attention to detail!
Last question: top five living artists. Quick!
Hannah: This is my favorite question, though also the hardest question to answer since my list is always evolving! I’d have to say Marilyn Minter, Christian Marclay, Laurie Simmons, Hans Haacke, and Sophie Calle.
Margaret: Well, right now Tauba Auerbach is my girl. And then I’ll go with Mary Kelly, Cathie Opie, Gerhard Richter, and Eva Hesse (because if she hadn’t died before her time from using her materials, she’d still be with us. I just can’t leave her off).
Sophie works in a New York City museum. Interests include running, second-hand bookstores and brunch.More from this Author