Hot Box Gallery displays art in shipping containers, continues pop-up trend

XXX (Chris Garay/DD)
The Hot Box Gallery showcases artists’ work on the walls of refurbished shipping containers. (Chris Garay/DD)

The newly opened Hot Box Gallery is the latest player in what could become a unique movement for businesses in the downtown Phoenix area.

Hot Box Gallery, which opened on last month’s First Friday, aims to take a different approach to showcasing artists’ work by presenting it inside a refurbished 20-foot shipping container. Situated on Roosevelt Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, artwork livens the walls of the new pop-up gallery.

The gallery is owned by the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation and is part of Roosevelt Row’s Adaptive Reuse of Temporary Space (A.R.T.S) Program.

Greg Esser, vice president of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation board and the project’s designer, said using something that can be picked up and relocated was an attractive alternative because of the scarcity of conventional building space.

“We have a disadvantage compared to older cities, like Denver or San Diego, where arts districts emerged in the downtown core through the reuse of existing buildings,” Esser said. “Phoenix has never had a very strong existing building stock.”

But vacant lots are plentiful here, and other companies are in the process of taking advantage of the empty space.

Nanogram, a crew of designers offering graphic and modeling services, is one of those groups.

Their shipping container, also part of the same A.R.T.S. Program, is on a piece of land on First Street that already belonged to Nanogram’s owners. The property is in the early stages of becoming a pop-up park, with Nanogram designer Stephen Azarik adding that the company is open to outside input for other uses.

“We’re thinking this could just be a fun experiment,” Azarik said. “I think our goal is to try to interact more with the community and hopefully create a forum on our blog where we can get suggestions for what we can get done next.”

Azarik said Nanogram is hoping to pursue a farmer’s market permit to allow them to host events. This would give them the opportunity to rotate the use of the container so that, from one event to the next, the space can become an art gallery, a cafe or even a screening surface for a movie as need be.

Designer Vincenz Saccento also adopted a similar portable and temporary model. His company, LifeBox 2.0, does not use shipping containers, instead focusing on transportable 64-square-foot “boxes” that do not require tools to build. The boxes can be connected to create larger spaces.

Saccento said he hopes to create a pop-up co-working location partnered with food vendors downtown.

“In order to have co-working space you want some facility: coffee, breakfast, lunch, ice cream,” Saccento said. “And we’re looking into designing a mini-type grocery store and other concepts.”

One of those concepts is a high-end doughnut shop focused on clean, simple design, with fresh ingredients and toppings to create a customized doughnut.

And it seems that these types of alternative spaces are piquing the interest of people around the community. Esser said he has noticed more people around the Hot Box area since he started the project.

“I will say over the last eight months in working on the evolution of the container, I’ve had opportunities to talk to the people walking by,” Esser said. “There is definitely an increase in pedestrian activity.”

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