Five new galleries popped up along Alexandria’s waterfront, quite literally on the backs of artists. The Backpack Gallery project is exactly what it sounds like–a series of mini-galleries that are worn like a backpack, and can travel around to different locations, bringing art directly to the viewers.

The Backpack Gallery project came to Alexandria for the first time on Saturday, June 28th and will return three more times throughout the summer, the next of which is this Saturday, July 26th from 3:30-8:30 p.m. This interactive, collaborative project was created by local artist Heloisa Escudero and combines all areas of contemporary art into a performance, where the gallery space is an actual backpack.

BP Alexandria 2Photo by the Backpack Gallery

First done in Chicago in 2010, these performances have been displayed all over the United States, including Boston, Philadelphia and most recently, the Dumbo Art Festival in New York. They’ve even made an international trip to Upsala, Sweden! Each series brings new artists that bring new meaning to these galleries, which are then worn by artists and volunteers, and brought to the people. This first-round featured galleries created by artists Becca Kallem, Steve Wanna, and Jenny Walton, whose audio, visual and (maybe most importantly!) highly-interactive artwork both intrigued and activated the inner-artist in the public.

BP Alexandria 3Photo by the Backpack Gallery

Funded a few months ago with a grant from the Alexandria Commission for the Arts and described as a “mobile gallery with a performance edge,” the Backpack Galleries aim to catapult viewers to a new status of “Active Audience.” At the same time that you, the viewer, are experiencing the art, you’re also becoming a part of the performance itself. Another important concept for this project is to make video, installation and other contemporary art more accessible to the public. Instead of having to go to a gallery, where people often feel intimidated if they don’t know a lot about contemporary art (and let’s face it, we all feel that way sometimes), the Backpack Gallery brings this art into the public where anyone can experience and enjoy it.

Missed the first installation in June, or saw it and didn’t know what it was? Lucky for you, the Alexandria series, titled 2 + 3 = in Creativity, will return on July 26th, August 23rd and September 6th. And since we all have a little art and artist inside us, each of these performances incorporates a “public art gallery” so that the audience has a chance to be a part of the creative process and add their own personal touch.

BP Alexandria 4 - Becca KallemArtwork by Becca Kallem

Since the Backpack Galleries are mobile in nature, a Twitter account has been set up for location and time updates of the art performance. Though this weekend’s exhibition will begin in front of the Torpedo Factory Art Center along the Alexandria Marina, visitors can follow @backpackgallery on Twitter to find its current location. Any visitors wishing to follow the gallery along to its different locations are welcome to stay and become an active visitor performer. Happy art making, dear artists.


Learn more about the Backpack Gallery and where you can view upcoming exhibitions here.

This post was written by Allison Nance, from the Alexandria Arts Commission

Header image by the Backpack Gallery

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