The Wagon of Wonders

What’s this Wagon of Wonders? from Big Car on Vimeo.

A caravan of creativity! The Wagon of Wonders is a hands-on mobile art experience: a cabinet of curiosities with a built-in puppet theatre for live performances. The most recent update made possible by a grant through the Summer Youth Program Fund features dioramas, postcards people can color that we’ll mail anywhere, a healing palindrome photo-op, a Frida Khalo-inspired papel picado installation, hand-painted portraits of Indiana Creators, the Tiny Utopia Museum, and the Little Bigfoot Museum.  

The Wagon of Wonders (WoW) is Big Car Collaborative’s mobile, interactive art unit and pop-up public space was originally made possible, in a large part, by a grant from the Herbert Simon Family Foundation – a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). WoW is part curiosity cabinet, part gallery, and part interactive art installation. The Wagon features changing art exhibits and opportunities for everybody to contribute creatively.

The WoW was designed and exhibits curated by co-founders Jim Walker and Shauta Marsh, built by Chris Vorhees, an Efroymson Contemporary Art Fellowship winner, and it features commissioned exhibits by artists Kaila Austin, Neil Cain, Jason Gray, Conner Green, Amber Theodore, Beatriz Vasquez, Jenny Ollikainen, Michael Jordan, and Carlie Foreman.

Wagon of Wonders (2018-2020)

Visitors to the WoW are always encouraged to participate in a variety of hands on activities. Took our mobile museum to Turkey Run State Park to debut a new puppet theatre built into the Wagon of Wonders by Teenworks and our staff artists with the support of the Indiana Arts Commission. Some major events throughout the 2018-2020 that the Wagon made an appearance at include:

Wagon of Wonders (2015-2016)

During the summer and fall of 2015, the Wagon of Wonders was implemented at Spark Monument Circle and at Reconnecting to Our Waterways destinations around Indianapolis. It is made possible by the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Apparatus, Klipsch, The Samerian Foundation, Impact 100, AvantGarb, Penrod Society and our friends at LUNA Music and Klipsch donated our DIY DJ rig.

We built this mobile, interactive art space on the base of an ice fishing trailer made by Tebben, a family-run company in Clara City, Minnesota. The idea for using this type of trailer came after the Big Car team had experienced The Traveling Museum, a mobile gallery from Minnesota that participated in the Indianapolis Art in Odd Places event we organized in 2015. However, art isn’t the usual function for these trailers. People typically use them for fishing in winter up north where lakes freeze solid enough for driving. They build their own ice-fishing houses (some with bars, kitchens and bathrooms) in the trailers and then pull them out onto the frozen water. This type of trailer hydraulically lowers to the ground, enabling people to fish from the inside, reducing their exposure to frigid temperatures and wind chills. We also chose this trailer for its ability to lower completely to the ground, providing excellent accessibility to the back gallery and to openings beneath the awnings – inspired by the metal box outdoor bookstores used by bouquinistes along the bank of Seine River in Paris.

Concepts and designs for WoW bounced back and forth between Walker and Vorhees, the sculptor who fabricated WoW in his workshop in Cincinnati in early 2015. Vorhees brought experience with fabricating large-scale sculpture and fabricating mobile art galleries to the mix. In 1997, Vorhees and two friends collaborated on creating a mobile gallery known as Object D’Art that travelled the country pulled by a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger.

In May of 2015, Vorhees brought the shell of the WoW to Big Car’s new Tube Factory artspace in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Then working as an artist in residence with Big Car, Vorhees completed the WoW in direct collaboration with Jim and other artists. During this process, additional ideas for the WoW functions developed and were implemented in the trailer. This process of collaboration allowed ideas to flow, change and connect with the function and form of the trailer. It also led to the final design of the WoW as a flexible and changeable unit that will accommodate future uses as a tool for socially engaged art and creative placemaking.

The trailer includes multiple metal awnings that cover window openings, allowing artists to curate and install small exhibits in these spaces. The large gallery in the back can fit three to four people at a time while serving the same purpose as other sections. The top of the trailer is reinforced to handle a band, dancers, or other performers. Audio speakers donated by Klipsch, an Indianapolis audio company, provide high-quality sound at every location. The battery system powers the trailer in remote locations.

Arts in the Parks 2016 from Big Car Collaborative on Vimeo.

Contact us to learn more or to request a visit in the Wagon of Wonders.