Putting a twist on “dumpster diving,” artist Lindsay Pennington creates portable art studios for locals to showcase paintings, sculptures and music in a collective called Cult Cargo.
The project penned Cult Cargo is made up of Pennington, carpenter Hank Hambright and electrician Patrick Morales. This project involves the conversion of standard industrial dumpsters into temporary art galleries for local artists to showcase their work. This includes gutting out and refurbishing the spaces with new floors and electrical work before the artist is hosted.
“The three of us build the spaces,” Pennington said. “So Cult Cargo refers to all of us as a unit putting the spaces together for other artists to come together and showcase or perform.”
Pennington first arrived to Athens six years ago after transferring as a junior from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Upon coming to the University of Georgia to pursue art, she set to work finding her niche among the rich art community both in Lamar Dodd and in the Athens community.
“I didn’t know really what I wanted to do in the art school,” she said. “I quickly found out sculpture was an appropriate field because you get to experiment with so many mediums, it allows you to explore and try out a lot of different processes. It was really enticing, so it wasn’t hard to choose.”
Pennington graduated in 2014, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture. This lent itself to her thesis, which would be the inevitable beginnings of Cult Cargo.
“For my thesis I converted a 40 yard dumpster into a venue,” Pennington said. “Me and a crew built a roof on the dumpster and outfitted it with electric outlets and lighting, painted the interior, cleaned it up, and put down flooring. We then held events for two weeks.”
This idea was credited to constant exposure to the sculpture building dumpster where Pennington would pilfer through discarded materials to be recycled in her own work.
“It was kind of like a feeding ground for me to get materials,” she said. “As I was doing that one day I had an epiphany and I was like 'this is a space that it’s large enough you could do things, it’s more than just a place to throw things away.'”
That was the beginning of what has become an illustrious and colorful history. Since then, Cult Cargo has been featured in multiple festivals, including twice at Slingshot. Additionally, Pennington’s gallery spaces were used at a goat farm for Elevate Atlanta, which was on a much larger scale with ten total containers and different artists. This festival, featuring artist from all over the US, was an annual week-long event with interactive spaces.
Locally, opportunities to showcase work in the galleries comes by word of mouth given the extensive art scene here in town.
“There’s so many creative people in Athens, so it’s not really hard to find people who want to put up work or perform,” Pennington said. “People find inspiration from the city and want to put themselves into it. It’s an ebb and flow, when a place gives you a lot you want to stay and give to the place. Athens has a lot of creative people.”
Courtney McCracken, another well-known Athens artist who also heavily relies on themes of sustainability in work, has also been featured in Cult Cargo. According to Pennington, she painted a giant web on the walls for her piece. Rachel Barnes, another local name in terms of both reuse and fashion, employed Pennington for a recent installation.
These two artist highlight the extreme diversity in Cult Cargo’s exhibitions, which include all sorts of mediums.
“We had some graffiti artists come in and we gave them a blank canvas they colored in for a week,” Pennington said. “We’ve had painters show work, we’ve had musicians come in.”
Social Synth, a piece presented at last years Slingshot, featured one of the most “challenging and inspiring,” as well as most massive piece featured by Cult Cargo. A few locals got together and turned the entire dumpster into a giant, interactive synthesizer.
“They made knobs out of 10 gallon buckets and created a giant keyboard out of plexiglass with controls behind it," Pennington said. "It’s this interactive thing that requires several different people working together for it to work properly.”
Given the versatility of Cult Cargo, Pennington predicted that the project's success could travel. While not having any particular city in mind, collaborations in any location could result in Cult Cargo finding new talent to showcase and new audiences to impress.
“We went to Atlanta and collaborated there, but it’s a concept that could take well to any city,” Pennington said. “It’s an exciting idea that you could drop a container on the street, build it out for a day, and see who comes to it. A lot of people are curious so I think it can attract people and give a space to creative people occupying that city, neighborhood or block.”