Shipping Containers Become Art Spaces In King-Lincoln District

May 25, 2018

A new arts space in Columbus’ King-Lincoln District will transform shipping containers into unique showcases for local artists throughout the summer.

Three metal containers sit on a grassy corner lot at 925 Mount Vernon Ave. Wooden decks and flower boxes extend from the units.

“We wanted it to look attractive and beautiful in the community,” says Marshall Shorts of Maroon Arts Group. “This is a great community and we wanted it to be professional and engaging and attractive.  So, the decks are also part of accessibility, so the gallery has wheelchair accessibility.”

Maroon Arts Group, a community organization, collaborated with the city of Columbus to provide the space for black and other minority artists to display their works and entertain the community.

“We thought shipping containers were a low barrier to access,” Shorts says. “We didn’t have to build a permanent structure. It kind of came already structured.”

The containers can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.  They have large garage-like doors that roll up to the outside, and visitors can walk through the art gallery to get a close look at the paintings and drawings. 

“We are using the containers as an art gallery, a community arts gallery," Shorts says. "And also we have a container that will operate as sort of a theatre space and stage for performance."

Artwork inside one of the shipping container art galleries.
Credit Debbie Holmes

A third container will operate as a cafe and is owned by Willowbeez Soul Veg, a vegetarian soul food restaurant.

The current display inside the arts gallery shows artwork expressing the meaning of “Transcend.”  

“It kind of deals with some subject matter that we’re seeing with in popular culture around identity, tragedy and triumph,” says Shorts.

Shorts says many minority artists have fewer opportunities to get attention.

“I think you know we kind of promote where our community is,” says Shorts. “If galleries in the Short North don’t necessarily have a lot of African American artists in their network, then they’re not necessarily looking for those types of artists.  And if they do, a lot of times they’re from out of town.”

Theater stage in front of re-purposed shipping container.
Credit Debbie Holmes / WOSU

Shorts says he thinks this may be the first time in Columbus shipping containers are used for art displays.  He has seen the containers used in displays in other cities.

An opening festival took place in mid-May. Maroon Arts Group also plans to hold monthly programs with musicians and poets, and festivals throughout the summer.