FEMA Trailer Transformed Into "Garden On Wheels" & Donated To Mobile Art Center

armadillo mobile garden MIT side street projects
Image of The Armadillo's retractable shell which conceals a hybrid composter, and vertical planting walls (via Side Street Projects)

We've brought the innovative, mobile art education non-profit Side Street Projects to your attention before and now, the Pasadena-based community organization is embarking on its next exciting adventure - can you say "road trip"? Side Street Projects is going cross-country to Boston to pick up The Armadillo, a FEMA trailer that was transformed into a mobile, vertical community garden by MIT students and faculty. Mmmm. Art, architecture, nomadic sustainability and permaculture: could it get any tastier than that? In a word, yes!The Armadillo was awarded to Side Street Projects after a nationwide contest held by MIT. As one of the infamous FEMA trailers used as temporary disaster relief housing after Hurricane Katrina, The Armadillo was converted by the MIT Visual Arts Program into a hybrid composting center (with retractable shell), vertical garden, permaculture library, and multipurpose space (which Side Street Projects will set up as a community digital lab).

"This is truly a honor to be recognized by MIT," says artist and Side Street Projects' Executive Director Jon Lapointe. "The Armadillo is a model for how art and science can intersect to benefit communities. The Armadillo blurs the line between public art and public service, and we are thrilled to collaborate with MIT on this project."

Starting on June 13th, Side Streets Project will begin their 6,500 mile cross-country tour, making stops at Baltimore, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New Orleans and Houston, in addition to smaller towns, trailer parks and truck stops. To get there, they will use a truck running on diesel and bio-diesel.

Back in Pasadena, Side Street Projects uses a small fleet of off-grid, vintage trailers back in California as administrative offices, while old school buses are transformed into wood shops and art classrooms. Similarly, they intend to use the Armadillo as a "mobile classroom," combining community gardening with art classes. Young ones who will visit the Armadillo will get a chance to make a two-liter bottle planting system (below), which can be hung as "vertical planting walls" - a system inspired by the Armadillo's elaborate modular system of metal planters hanging on its exterior.

armadillo vertical planters
The concepts behind both Side Street Projects and the Armadillo are off-grid innovation and creative re-use at their best. Four years after the Katrina tragedy, over 90,000 emergency trailers lay empty and un-used, thanks to issues of interior toxicity, bureaucratic bungling and lack of affordable, transition housing.

The overall symbolism of the trip is not lost on Lapointe. "The Armadillo will allow us to deliver a program that explores issues of art and science, horticulture, food production, environmental justice, and sustainability. The possibilities are limitless," he says. "We are so excited to share this 21st century mobile community garden with the people of Pasadena and folks across the U.S.A., especially those whose lives were adversely affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

Daily blog updates, video and photo uploads will be coming soon - you can follow Side Street Projects via their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts (yes, they are looking for sponsors), and we'll keep you posted on this one-of-a-kind (dare we say historic?) tour.

Side Street Projects (via press release - see slideshow here)

More on Mobile Art & FEMA
Mobile Off-Grid Art Center Takes Off
FEMA Trailers Had Too Much Particle Board, Too Little Ventilation
FEMA Trailers Optimizing Formaldehyde Exposure
How CDC bungled FEMA Formaldehyde
FEMA Formaldehyde Fiasco Festers

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