Sun Newspapers Feature Article

Article & Photo By Kassidy Tarala
August 22, 2018

From Corporate To Creative—
For more than a year, Matt Swenson has been touring the state in the Minnesota Art Truck

After years spent at a corporate job as a medical salesman, Matt Swenson decided to follow his passion for art. Swenson opened the Minnesota Art Truck in July 2017, and since then, the business has grown into a traveling gallery of 37 artists.

Among these artists is Swenson himself, who makes sculptures out of junk, recycled materials and old advertisements. After selling sculptures at locations all across the country and to large companies like Delta Airlines, Swenson decided to start his own gallery to make art accessible to more people.

“Art has been very ‘otherly,’ meaning that it’s typically in art galleries, museums or art shows, which many people don’t feel comfortable attending,” Swenson said. “With the Minnesota Art Truck, people are able to stop by, look around and ask questions without feeling pressured to buy anything or to have extensive knowledge about art.”

The art truck travels to locations where people might not expect to see art. Swenson said they often have events at breweries, wine rooms and festivals. Though the art is typically appreciated by adults, Swenson makes the art truck child-friendly with activity stations and classes geared toward children.

In addition to participating in local events and festivals, Swenson said he also does “art stops” each month. Every second and fourth Monday of the month, the art truck stops at Minnehaha Mile, so people can always expect to see him there. Additionally, Swenson delivers “on-demand art” by driving the truck to anyone’s home, office, church or wherever they request it.

Swenson said his favorite part of the Minnesota Art Truck is its ability to support and promote local artists. He said many people will purchase mass-produced artwork from a store like Target or Walmart, but with the art truck, people are able to buy original works of art and learn the stories behind the works.

From illustration and painting to media art and sculpture, the art truck has many forms of art. Sometimes, Swenson said he likes to get authors involved by selling their books on the truck, too.

Melinda Wolff sells her artwork on the truck. Like Swenson, Wolff left her corporate job to pursue her true love: art.

With a degree in studio art from the College of St. Benedict, Wolff has a background in many forms of art. She sells her stained glass, pottery, jewelry and paintings on the art truck as well as in other galleries and art shows across the Twin Cities.

“My husband does woodworking, and he used to throw the scraps of wood in a bonfire when he was done with a piece,” Wolff said. “The pieces were too small for him to use, but they were just too beautiful to throw away, so now I take them and make jewelry with them.”

Wolff said she appreciates the venue that the art truck provides because it is constantly moving, which allows more people to see the work of Wolff, Swenson and other artists.

“Matt has a drive that not a lot of people have,” she said. “He’s a go-getter, which is extremely helpful because a lot of artists are introverts who aren’t very comfortable promoting their own work. Matt will be more outgoing and highlight the art when the artists are a little afraid to show off their own work.”

Swenson said the art truck is for everyone, whether they’re especially interested in art or not. Because the truck is such a casual, welcoming setting, people feel more comfortable walking on, looking at the art and asking questions that they might not feel comfortable asking in a gallery or museum setting.

“Some people are hesitant about going into galleries because they feel like they have to purchase multi-million dollar paintings in order to look at art,” Swenson said. “Here, they aren’t obligated to buy anything. People can take pictures, simply admire the art or listen to stories about the artists in a much more comfortable setting than a formal gallery.”

Wolff said the Minnesota Art Truck brings the community together by getting local artists’ names out there and bringing art into the lives of more people.

“It brings people out to the art who might not have been able to see it without the art truck,” Wolff said. “I’ve had some people come up to me at galleries and say they bought my earrings at the art truck, and it comes full circle. It’s great to see people enjoy art, learn more about it and, of course, wear it!”

For more information about the Minnesota Art truck, a list of the artists involved or a schedule of upcoming events, visit mnarttruck.com.

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