Big Car Collaborative is a nonprofit art organization that focuses on “placemaking and socially engaged art” and collaborates with artists and placemakers from around the world, according to the Big Car website. Since the beginning of the semester, junior studio art and anthropology major Rachel Gravens and sophomore digital media major Kristen Gandenberger have been interning at Big Car, where the mission statement is, “We bring art to people and people to art, sparking creativity in lives to support communities.”
The Project for Public Spaces website defines placemaking as reimagining and reinventing public spaces in a community, and that aspect of Big Car is why Gravens was interested in the internship, she said.
“With anthropology and studio art being my two majors, it’s a really perfect combination,” Gravens said. “Because that’s [placemaking is] what they [Big Car] do. They use art to work with the community and engage people in the community and bring people together.”
Gravens is the assistant for immigrant outreach and programming at Big Car, which she said was a good fit because of a research trip she took this winter break. The trip involved going to South Texas to identify migrant bodies on the United States-Mexico border.
She said that the trip made her eager to start the line of work that she would be doing at Big Car. A specific project that Gravens is working on at the moment is a series called “Migration Stories.”
“We’ve had people in the community who’ve migrated to the U.S. come and kind of talk about their home country and the culture there and why they came here and what it was like trying to kind of settle into life in the U.S. and what kind of reactions they received, if any,” Gravens said. “So far, we’ve had a man come to speak from Nigeria, and I think we’ll have a couple from Mexico that are lined up and some others as well.”
Gandenberger works as Big Car’s digital media intern, a position in which she said she does a little bit of everything. She said she has done everything from taking inventory to even cleaning out a closet. She also helps to write the organization’s e-blasts, which are its weekly newsletters. The e-blasts tell about all of the upcoming events for the month. Gandenberger said she also does website upkeep and writes content for the website.
Both Gravens and Gandenberger have worked events that Big Car hosts, such as the gallery openings held in the building out of which the organization works. There are two gallery spaces, and they change out the exhibits every few months.
The current exhibit is called “The Hairy Man” and was curated by author and Sasquatch expert Christopher Murphy. The exhibit features “artifacts, stories and evidence of Bigfoot’s existence with a focus on the creature as a part of cultural conversations through the centuries,” according to bigcar.org. The exhibit is free and will end on April 15. Gandenberger said that she would like to have a career at a place like Big Car in the future.
“I can see how it [working at a place like Big Car] would be very rewarding, to have an idea and then bring it to fruition and have it help people or benefit the community in any way…. I think an organization like Big Car would really work for me because I like to have my hands in a little bit of everything,” Gandenberger said.
Gravens said she would advise others to go out and apply for an internship at Big Car.
“If this is the kind of work that you’re interested in, it’s a really unique organization that’s involved with art and placemaking and community building,” Gravens said. “So I think it’s a really great opportunity for people to be a part of and kind of see how that whole process works.”