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'It's Kind Of Inspirational': Mass Gallery's Traveling Exhibit 'Road Soda' Comes Home

Mass Gallery

“With Covid, you know, we had to kind of shutter our doors – like all businesses – and try to rethink about different ways of showing art,” says Mass Gallery founding member Jules Buck Jones. “And so [fellow Mass Gallery member] Andrea [Calo] had an idea… of what if we kind of have this traveling art show?

That was the idea that became the new group show Road Soda: A Texas Road Trip Traveling Exhibition, which is set to open this weekend after a summer-long journey around the Lone Star State. “And so we kind of dialed it in to a Texas road trip, which just sounded kind of perfect,” Jones says. “You know, we have a lot of like-minded friends who run organizations around the state, and so we made a little list of people who we thought would be interested in the project, and then the gallery, Mass, curated… 10 Austin artists whose work we could pack into one box and kind of ship it around.”

“Yeah," says Calo. “It’s a 20 by 20 by 20 inch FedEx box.” Inside that relatively small shipping box, the folks at Mass Gallery were able to fit works by Claudia Aparicio Gamundi, Adrian Armstrong, Zoe Berg, Sev Coursen, Alex Diamond, Andie Flores, Alexis Mabry, Payton McGowen, Kevin Muñoz, and Ariel Spiegelman (along with plenty of bubble wrap to keep the artwork safe on its voyage).

“So once we packed the box, it travelled from Austin to our friends at Presa House Gallery in San Antonio,” Calo says. “And then from there, they drove it to Houston, to Dennis Nance and Nick Barbee, who took it in Houston and Galveston, and from there it travelled to Dallas, to Tamara Johnson and Trey [Burns], who run Sweet Pass Sculpture Park, and then its final stop before returning to us was in Lubbock, to East Lubbock Art House, which is run by Danielle East. And then from Lubbock, [it] came home.”

“We asked people who we know run gallery spaces or are involved with the arts somehow to participate,” Jones says. “And we sort of challenged them with, you know, ‘take the art out and put it somewhere atypical, or fun.’ Because there’s a lot of, like, rigmarole with setting up art traditionally – you know, like on white walls and hanging things evenly. And we didn’t really want to burden our collaborators with that type of installation process. We wanted it to be really fun and easy for them.”

“So they took the artworks and displayed them somewhere not necessarily for the public or engaging with the public,” Calo says. “But more installing them and documenting them and then sending that stuff back to us.”

“The final stage of the whole project will be coming to fruition at Mass Gallery,” Jones says. “We’ll be hanging the artwork on the walls, the way you typically do,” Jones says. “But accompanying the artworks will be all these photographs of the same artwork in all of its sort of summer glory. Like hanging at the beach and these other spots.”

The exhibit will open to the public on September 25, when art patrons will get to view the works in person along with their summer vacation photos. “[It’s] really fun… to see a work of art sort of have these different lived experiences. It sort of animates them in a way that I think is fun,” Jones says. “[And] for me, it’s kind of inspirational. It excites me to continue wanting to figure out different ways of supporting artists. You know, we can do what we do, but we’re going to need to kind of change with the environment [and] things that are out of our control. You know, I find it really exciting on multiple levels.”

“As our own sort of small collective, it’s not every day that we get to collaborate or work with other arts organizations or other collectives,” Calo says. “So [it] was also really fun to sort of reach out to other people that – much like us – are figuring out ways to support artists and still engage in community. And so it was really fun to also just like reach out to other people and say, ‘hey, do you want to participate in this project with us, and it’s all through the mail?’ And so it was really fun.”

Jones says Road Soda is a perfect project for Mass Gallery’s new, smaller exhibition space. “We’ve recently had to downsize our gallery,” he says. “We used to have this maybe 1200 square foot gallery [and] just due to kind of funding stuff, [we] had to downsize into a smaller room in the building. This project was just like a really cool way to think about showing art in different ways. Yeah, if you can get 10 pieces in a 20 by 20 box, our 250 square foot space sounds pretty roomy now.”

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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