Last summer Kristina Wentzell was vacationing in Maine when she saw a 1966 DeCamp travel trailer for sale. She lauched an online Kickstarter fundraising campaign and raised enough money to help her purchase the trailer and turn it into a traveling art gallery. So you see, RVs can fill many functions in our lives!
Here is my interview with Kristina, the fine art oil painter from Keene, New Hampshire. She displays her paintings in “The Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery.”
Levonne: How much time do you spend on the road with The Happy Camper? How far do you usually travel with your trailer? Where did you take The Happy Camper this past year?
Kristina: This is my first year having the Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery—I finished the renovations last September and traveled to Fall Art & Craft Festival in Manchester, Vermont for my debut show. This year, I plan to travel around New England to Boston, Vermont, and New Hampshire to art festivals, street fairs and gallery walks. My full schedule of events is on my website (see bottom for link).
L: Did you camp or RV before you acquired your traveling art gallery? If so, could you tell about some of your most memorable experiences?
K: Yes, I am an avid tent camper. I hiked the Appalachian trail with my now husband when we first met (over twenty years ago) and since then have had many adventures camping in New England and western U.S. One of my most favorite memories was RV camping in a Toyota Hiace while traveling up the western coast of Australia with my husband and two young children. It was truly magical: watching kangaroos and birds, camping on deserted beaches, looking at the southern stars and swimming with sea tortoises in tropical waters.
L: What gave you the idea for The Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery?
K: I’ve always been a fan of vintage cars and campers—in fact I have a whole series of paintings inspired by them called “hit the road”. I was inspired to create my mobile gallery while looking around the internet. I came across some really fantastic mobile businesses in vintage campers—a cupcake business, record store, clothing stores, food trucks—and I thought why not a mobile art gallery? And then just a few months later, I came across my DeCamp while vacationing in Maine and it all just fell into place.
L: I read that you removed closets and appliances, but retained the camper’s birch paneling to create gallery walls illuminated by 1960s light fixtures. Do you ever work inside your DeCamp?
K: It is primarily a gallery, but I love to sit in the little dinette area and sketch. It is such a fun, happy space with great energy—I like to just hang out in there when I’m not on the road.
L: How does rainy and cold weather impact your use of your traveling gallery?
K: Being from New Hampshire where winters are darn cold, the Happy Camper goes into hibernation during the winter months. The rest of the year, all of my events are rain or shine, but everything stays dry under the awning and inside the camper.
L: What are your future plans for The Happy Camper?
K: I plan to continue to take it on the road around New England to fairs and shows. If enough other artists make their own mobile galleries, I’d like to create some public events for us all to meet up. And maybe someday I’ll take her across the country.
L: How has having The Happy Camper impacted your thoughts and feelings about camping and RVing?
K: I’ve always been a fan. Now, I’d like to get another vintage camper that is just dedicated to camping!
L: How else do you sell your art?
K: I sell my art at summer art festivals all around New England, on my website, and Etsy store.
L: What other ways can people purchase your art?
K: I happily take commissions—I love painting landscapes of places that hold special meaning for clients. I work from photos that are provided me. I also offer an art subscription club called A Year of Paintings where folks subscribe and receive 6 original landscape or floral paintings over the course of a year. It’s fun knowing that you have original artwork on its way in the mail every other month (and is also at a savings of 50% off regular prices).
L: What else would you like RV enthusiasts to know about you and The Happy Camper?
K: I am an artist/wife/mother living in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire tucked under the watchful eye of Mt. Monadnock (the 2nd most climbed mountain in the world).
Besides being an artist, I am an avid gardener, birder, foodie, and am on a quest to sample whoopie pies in every corner store I come across in Northern New England.
A lifelong artist, I have traveled and studied painting in France, Canada, & Australia and received my BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art.
L: How can people get in touch with you?
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/kwentzell
Author Levonne Gaddy’s book “This Restless Life: A dream chased through California parks in an RV” chronicles her relocation adventures from the Southwest to Central Coast California during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. They encounter many twists and turns including a dead body found near their camp hosting camp site, problems finding work and multiple threats of floods. @Levonnegaddy
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