This month, Lucas Spivey will be rolling out AstroTurf, plunking down plastic flamingos and lawn chairs, and parking his 1957 Shasta camper in front of the Boston Center for the Arts for a three-month stay. It sounds like a leisurely summer scene—but Spivey means business. “I’m entertaining folks, but I’m also secretly educating them about business obstacles and ways to overcome them,” says Spivey, a consultant who’s worked with artists and cultural organizations across the country. “I started to notice the same problems, no matter what industry—artists, musicians, performers, comedians, designers, architects, they were all having similar problems.”
In response, Spivey revved up his Mobile Incubator, a roving office and recording studio where he’s sharing business development strategies and documenting artists’ successes and struggles. The camper crisscrossed the country visiting maker spaces, business parks, universities and other incubators on its inaugural 15,000-mile road trip in 2016; now Spivey is preparing to park in Boston from July 20 through Oct. 22 for the latest installment of the Boston Center for the Arts’ Public Arts Residency. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he’ll offer pro bono consultations to creative professionals, who, he notes, often face challenges in securing financing, marketing themselves and defending their intellectual property. Take Alice Saunders of Somerville line Forestbound, who recently discovered that Forever 21 was selling a bag highly reminiscent of her design.
ROAD WARRIOR: The Mobile Incubator’s interior showcases the talents of artists and artisans like Seattle’s Kate Jessop, who designed the mosaic table above.
“You look at the two bags and you’re like, ‘This is not fair use. This is pretty shocking,’” says Spivey, who’s featuring Saunders as a guest for one of the podcast episodes he’ll produce in the Mobile Incubator during the residency. Other local artists and entrepreneurs he’s tapping include Project Runway winner Erin Robertson, the steady-handed painters behind Best Dressed Signs, film location scout Ryan Cook, pop-up and public-art impresario Emily Isenberg and comedians Alingon Mitra and Jenny Zigrino. But the Mobile Incubator isn’t simply a recording studio and office on wheels—Spivey thinks of it as a work of art in its own right.
“There’s a very particular reason I picked this model,” he explains. “People copied it for 40 years it was so iconic. It’s a beautiful work of industrial design.” Now adorned with mosaic walls made from more than 1,000 wooden pieces, the camper was retrofitted by Mighty Tieton, an artisan business incubator nestled in the Cascade Mountains. “It’s filled with dozens of artists, designers, production companies, a book bindery, printing shops,” Spivey says. “They have folks with marketing expertise, folks with accounting and legal backgrounds, fulfillment services. They’ve got all the nuts and bolts of what a business community needs in a town of 1,200 people.” It’s the sort of case study in culture and commerce that he hopes can help make the term “starving artist” a misnomer.