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December 20. 2012 2:45PM

Have art (and happy camper), will travel

Kristina Wentzell, a Keene fine art oil painter, isn't just a happy camper; she drives one, too.

The artist was vacationing in Maine this past summer when she happened upon a 1966 DeCamp travel trailer for sale. Driven by a bit of creative inspiration, she launched a fundraising campaign, then purchased and renovated the vehicle. Today, The Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery is not only a retro work of art in and of itself but an exhibition space for Wentzell's landscapes and detail images of birds, flowers and fruit.

"The response to the Happy Camper has been overwhelmingly positive," Wentzell said. "People think it is so much fun, and happy and approachable. I'm starting to be known by it. 'Oh, you're the happy camper artist!' - I get that all the time now."

Wentzell said the concept of a mobile art gallery grew from the trend of gourmet food trucks and other mobile businesses.

"I'm always on the lookout for new and creative ways to get my art out into the world ...," she said.

Wentzell, who said she studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and in France with Parsons School of Design and received her bachelor of fine arts degree at the Massachusetts College of Art, was intrigued by the sight of the robin's egg-blue camper and set about raising funds for its purchase and renovation.

"Kickstarter is an online crowd-sourcing funding platform for creative projects," she said. "It's open to anyone with an idea. I created a page on Kickstarter outlining my project with photos and a video and offered rewards at different pledge levels. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing funding policy, meaning you only get paid if you make your financial goal - and supporters only get charged once the goal has been met. I offered cards and paintings as rewards and used the funding to help cover some of the costs of purchasing the camper and its renovations."

Her page on Kickstarter lists $2,655 pledged as of Sept. 12, the date recorded for reaching the fundraising goal.

"When I first saw the camper for sale ... and was kicking around the idea for a mobile gallery, I posted a photo of it on my Facebook page with a description of my idea and invited feedback. The response was huge. Folks were so excited about it, and that was when it was just an idea. Now that is it finished the response has grown exponentially," Wentzell said.

Enlisting her husband in the renovation process, the couple removed closets and appliances, retaining the camper's birch paneling to create gallery walls illuminated by 1960s light fixtures.

"We put a lot of energy and elbow grease into the project, doing all the construction and remodeling and sewing ourselves," Wentzell said. "The Kickstarter campaign covered about one half of the total expense of purchase and renovations."

In addition to exhibiting her work throughout New England at art fairs, street festivals, retirement homes and gallery walks, she has been showing "100 Paintings for the Holidays for $100 or Less" inside the trailer at her home studio at 7 Ashuelot St., Keene.

"I've created an art gallery that is fun and approachable," she said. "When I pull up to events with my little trailer it makes people smile ... and they can't help but come inside to view my paintings."

For more information, log onto kristinawentzell.com.


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