Mobile art: Cargo Space now ‘under construction’ at Rice

Tucked in a corner of the Rice campus, between the Rice Media Center and Reckling Park, a former Rice transit bus is currently undergoing a remarkable transformation into a mobile arts residency and art space that will host artists from Houston and around the world. Called Cargo Space, the transformation is the brainchild of Christopher Sperandio, an assistant professor of visual and dramatic arts. 

Cargo Space will be built with and feature green materials and processes and have a bunk room, a toilet and shower, a kitchenette with a refrigerator and sink, a dinette and an outside deck on top.

Sperandio said Cargo Space is an idea born out of a need. “There simply aren’t enough artists visiting this part of the country,” he said. The goal is to host artists of all stripes, cultural workers for extensive road trips across the United States, events and all manner of functions around Houston. He purchased the bus with a Humanities Research Innovation Fund grant from the Humanities Research Center.

He jokingly likens it to Jacques Cousteau’s famous expedition ship, The Calypso. “The bus will be more like an interdisciplinary expedition vehicle, a land vessel,” he said.

Assisted by students and community volunteers, Sperandio is currently dismantling the bus from back to front, top to bottom. “We’re taking something that has served Rice for so many years and are repurposing it,” he said. This includes pulling out the floors, insulation and heating and air conditioning units. “We’re stripping it down to the bare metal and building it back up.”

Cargo Space will be built with and feature green materials and processes and have a bunk room, a toilet and shower, a kitchenette with a refrigerator and sink, a dinette and an outside deck on top of the bus. It will ultimately be able to sleep six.

Sperandio derives his inspiration from people who have successfully made unusual spaces their home. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of inexpensive and free living, the Utopian fantasy of living off the grid,” he said. “I’ve always been looking at people who live on houseboats, RVs or school buses.”

Ali Naghdali, a 2010 Rice graduate who is currently working toward his architect’s license at the Houston architecture firm Ziegler Cooper, is an early supporter and volunteer. “It’s amazing when you think of the opportunities once this is done and connecting people with different backgrounds,” he said when discussing his enthusiasm for the project.

Sperandio has set February 2013 as a target date for the project’s completion. At that point, Sperandio and an advisory committee will begin the work of selecting and inviting artists to make use of the bus.

He welcomes students, faculty, staff, alumni or members of the community who are interested in volunteering and helping with the bus’s transformation. They may contact Sperandio at sperandio@rice.edu.  

Cargo Space is funded in part by the Humanities Research Center, Rice’s Office of Parking and Transportation and the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts.

For more information about the Cargo Space project, visit www.thecargospace.com.

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