New Bunnell Street Artist-in-Residence has studio, will travel
This week there’s a new artist in residence at the Bunnell Street Art Center with a rather unique mobile studio.
Jimmy Riordan, a multidisciplinary artist based in Anchorage, initially purchased the decommissioned bookmobile to transport his printmaking equipment across the country.
“This really started as like a practical- I needed a vehicle to transport equipment from Pittsburgh to Anchorage and then it took about 20 days total to drive it and over that time I became sort of attached to it and so there were like long stretches to contemplate like what it would be like to run a bookmobile in Alaska,” he said.
Bookmobiles or mobile libraries have existed in the United States since the early 1900s serving rural communities, the elderly and those with mobility issues.
“So I wasn't aware of it growing up 'cause I don't remember there ever being one in Anchorage but there's a really really strong history of bookmobiles. I know that the library association that this bookmobile be used to be a part of has had a bookmobile program since the late 40s or early 50s and there's been bookmobile programs around the country since before automobiles," he said. "They would be drawn by horses and stuff.”
Riordan’s bookmobile, besides being a free library to exchange books, zines, records or comics also serves as a mobile venue. The bookmobile is solar powered complete with a generator and FM transmitter that has allowed for eclectic public art events.
“I think of this project right, there's a library aspect right I have free books for people. We try to have a sort of like, a friend earlier today was saying, kind of campy or odd books. Since Covid it's really become more about what's outside the bus. So as an example over the winter most of our events were drive in movies or like projecting the Anchorage school district art show onto the school buildings or being the power for MHATS, mental health advocacy through storytelling for their readings and for various doing a few concerts and the last few events this summer have been outside the bookmobile. It's been like hula hoops and Etch-a-sketches and poetry at the park," he said. "Since COVID everything has kind of moved outside the bookmobile has become more of a set of resources that can be used to make things happen and less of this sort of like indoor mobile venue.”
Riordan has several events planned for Homer.
“We're going out to the new Boom Box Cafe by the Gear Shed and we're going to project old silent films and broadcast Alaskan music soundtracks and then Friday we've got a drive-in movie at the Homer Council in the arts and we have a blind date with the Homer bookmobile, Bob coming up. Its gonna be cute. The Bookmobiles will be able to meet, hearts floating up from them I imagine," Riordan said. "Yeah so we're doing a variety of little pop up things but for the most part it's the bookmobiles to something that people can come and visit and check out during Bunnell’s gallery hours."
You can visit Riordan and his bookmobile at the Bunnell Street Art Center this week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.