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A Truck Carrying a Pedal-Powered Turntable Is Cruising Around Arlington, Explaining Art

The Arlington Art Truck demystifies art by taking it out of the gallery.

Cynthia Connolly standing with the new Arlington Art Truck. Photo by Yassine El Mansouri for Arlington Arts

Cynthia Connolly got the idea for the Arlington Art Truck when she was unloading produce at a local farmers market on weekends. “I worked five or six hours a week with a truck just like this and that experience made me learn so much about Arlington,” she says. “People really like how they can directly interact with the source, and where they get their food.” 

Connolly is now the special projects curator for Arlington’s Cultural Affairs division. She’s wearing a white lab coat and standing by the Arlington Art Truck, a moving art exhibition that’s set to make its way around the county until October of this year. It was hand-painted by New York artist Stephen Powers, and meant to pop out against the neutral tones she typically sees around town.

Inside of the Arlington Art Truck.

The truck, which cost $93,492 to fund, will host various artists throughout its run. The goal, Connolly says, is for it to serve as a “roving toolbox” for both the creators and spectators. Artists will work out of it, manufacturing interactive mobile activities and displays. They’ll visit schools, public libraries, and other spots in the community. It will be a much different experience from a gallery, Connolly says, where the only explanation you get is from a plaque on a gallery wall.

“There will be no more mystery of what art is, because we’ll be talking about it,” she says.

The inaugural artists are locals Emily Francisco and Alex Braden, who collaborated on a piece called Bipedal Soundscapes. It’s a sound sculpture: a stationary bike, rigged up to a five-tiered turntable. Get on the bike and pedal, and you’ll create enough power—with the help of various batteries and cables—to play the records.

Alex Braden pedaling Bipedal Soundscapes.

Braden found the bike on Craigslist for $15, and he picked some of the albums from his own collection. It’s an eclectic mix: Chuck Brown, Richard Pryor stand up, the jazz group War. “A lot of styles lend themselves better to this than others,” he explains. “Mainly instrumental, rhythmic music, and then some spoken word. With something like this, we have so many audio sources, sparse audio really works.” 

For example, the Chariots of Fire didn’t work. “It was just a little bit too much. Not staccato enough, not enough space,” Braden says. “It sounded like dying cats,” Francisco adds.

Bipedal Soundscapes will hitch a ride in the truck for the next eight weeks. Among its first stops are Kenmore Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Future activations include a giant inflatable sculpture from Alicia Eggert and the chance to watercolor some of Marcella Kriebel‘s black line illustrations.

Editorial Fellow

McKenzie is a spring 2018 editorial fellow. She graduated in May 2017 from Kent State University with a major in journalism and minor in fashion media. She was most recently a copy editor at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute. Georgetown is her favorite place in DC, and she loves food, style, Netflix, and her Kindle.