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A Tiny Museum on Wheels Rolls Into Burlington

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Matt Neckers Mobile Museum - COURTESY OF MATT NECKERS
  • Courtesy of Matt Neckers
  • Matt Neckers Mobile Museum

For such a small state, Vermont has a surprising number of museums that deviate from the standard format: Shelburne Museum, the Museum of Everyday Life in Glover and Main Street Museum in White River Junction stand out. Or maybe our sparsely populated landscape lends itself to such playful approaches. Take the Vermont International Museum of Contemporary Art + Design (VTIMoCA+D), which artist Matt Neckers opened in Eden as "a space for truly avant-garde contemporary art," he told Seven Days in 2015.

Now the mobile branch of Neckers' tiny institution is set to make its debut in Burlington's City Hall Park August 9 through 11, hosted by Burlington City Arts.

The Mobile Museum is not just a mobile museum — it's a mobile miniature museum housed in a revamped 1960s camper trailer. Neckers made the works on view — primarily sculptures — at a 1:12 scale.

"It was just kind of a fun thing, but then it turned into an obsession," he told Seven Days by phone. After establishing VTIMoCA+D in 2014, Neckers received a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant this year that allowed him to focus more intensively on the museum's mobile component — something he had intended to do since the museum's founding. The camper, a dilapidated score from Craigslist, needed to be almost entirely rebuilt. And acquisitions needed to be made. As Neckers put it, he switched from "doing any sort of art in a small museum to doing small art in a tiny museum."

Among the several hundred works Neckers made for the Mobile Museum are a miniature replica of Michelangelo's "David" modified with an electric red-orange cat's head, a mass of black plastic drill shavings, and industrial metalwork that was once part of a bike horn.

"I really believe in the democratization of art, particularly contemporary art," Neckers said. For him, the mobile museum is a seriously playful experiment in subverting the oft-inflated scales of value in the art world, both literally and figuratively. And mobility, at least theoretically, means the museum can show up anywhere, from a dirt back road to the parking lot of a major institution.

Another benefit of the unconventional format, Neckers noted, is the freedom he gains from working on a smaller scale. "To work small meant I could make lots and lots of artwork and do it fairly quickly," he said. "[It] freed me to do all sorts of artwork that I wouldn't have normally done." Though some works may remain in miniature form, others "are sketches for larger pieces later," Neckers said.

VTIMoCA+D is still a work in progress. As he put it, "The project is very much a process-oriented piece." Neckers has yet to announce future exhibition sites. Meanwhile, the museum's fixed location in Eden is currently closed for construction and tentatively scheduled to reopen in the fall. During the mobile museum's Burlington visit, guests will have the opportunity to contribute to the exhibit or to the institution's permanent collection — which, Neckers said, he hopes to move into the camper's icebox.


The original print version of this article was headlined "Mobile Museum to Roll Into Burlington"

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