Group turns to shipping containers to create multi-use arts space in King-Lincoln neighborhood

Every month, Maroon Arts Group hosts a program called “ROOTS: An Open Expression on Identity.” The programs are hosted by a rotation of black-owned businesses and include a featured presenter as well as an open mic.

On Sunday, May 20, MAG will host a daylong festival at 925 Mt. Vernon Ave., the site of its new art space the group calls MPACC (Movement Pursuing Arts, Commerce & Community), where it will expand on that same artistic blueprint.

“This is the biggest step we could have done at this point,” said MAG creative director Sheri Neale in an interview at MPACC. “It substantiated why we're here, and now we have to keep pushing ourselves creatively to use the space.”

Thanks to funding from both the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the City of Columbus, MAG will operate MPACC in two shipping containers in a former vacant lot in King-Lincoln. (A third shipping container at the site will house Willowbeez SoulVeg, a food vendor run by MAG member Carnell Willoughby.) One container will house a performance space, the other a gallery.

“We were considering new and different ways to see how we could have a lasting impact on the community. It was [MAG vice president] Marshall Shorts who first said something about shipping containers and I said, ‘Keep talking,'” Neale said.

“I had had this idea for a while to someday do a studio or gallery or even a home out of shipping containers,” Shorts said. “But this is a much bigger vision, and it's a lot more fulfilling.”

Neale said MAG would offer programming at MPACC one weekend a month from May to September, and will accept proposals from community residents and arts organizations for other programming.

“We were very interested in the investment in the neighborhood and the involvement of artists to engage other artists,” said Jami Goldstein, GCAC vice president marketing, communications & events.

“Sometimes, even in outdoor spaces, there's a barrier to participating in the arts. We've already taken down some of those barriers,” Neale said.

Neale said MAG hopes to engage not only artists, but also the community and the neighborhood around MPACC, specifically.

“We want folks to know they can come over whenever something's going on here. This is for them,” Neale said. “Everyone's invited, but this is really providing something for this neighborhood.”