Healdsburg artists Linus Lancaster and Ken Berman design innovative, portable shelter
The tiny house movement continues to sweep across the nation with ever more adorable iterations of adult-sized dollhouses, spawning a cottage industry of TV shows, books, special publications, and untold numbers of Pinterest and Instagram postings. Now two Sonoma County artists have each come up with a prototype for a micro-dwelling that shrinks the concept to a whole new dimension of minuteness.
Coming in at under 50 square feet, these portable shelters are big enough to allow a full grown man to roll out a sleeping bag or sit upright, and can be hitched to a bicycle and moved around.
The mobile shelters, functioning as tiny trailers for two-wheelers, are the brainchild of Healdsburg’s Harvey Brody, who advises and supports homeless artists. He challenged fellow artists Linus Lancaster, who teaches at Healdsburg High School, and Ken Berman, who also is an architect, to design and build full-sized mobile shelters with the hope that they might open a conversation within the community about how they could be used to help the homeless.
The mobile shelters are included in a new exhibit that opened this weekend at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg. Dubbed “A Place to Call Home,” the show, on display through May 22, features art aimed at “shining a light” on the challenges of living without a home. The exhibit includes works by the homeless, including photography. Several homeless clients were given cameras to document a day in their lives. There also are works by local artists and students. A documentary on Healdsburg’s homeless by Healdsburg High graduate Marcus Cano will be shown in the gallery at 7 p.m. May 18.
“We are hoping that by presenting these in the art exhibit, we will be giving the city, and businesses and community members an opportunity to see how they could function and if it’s possible to have several within the community for use as a stopgap until we have housing in the form of a shelter,” said Colleen Carmichael, the executive director for North Sonoma County Services, which is sponsoring the exhibit. “But they’re only a short-term solution to a long-term problem.”
Newly renamed Reach for Home, the nonprofit provides outreach to assist both the homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless.
Brody said he got the idea for a mobile shelter project after Carmichael showed him an article about two artists near Sacramento who were making shelter pods and giving them to the homeless.
“The idea was to use local artists and cover them with art, to make them so attractive that people aren’t turned off by seeing a homeless person, and the city will be less likely to confiscate them,” he said. “Art in this sense acts as a buffer between the homeless and those people who are not totally thrilled by having homeless people in their community. We need solutions. It’s a pandemic problem.”
Berman, who also is an architect and avid “maker,” at first was daunted by the design challenge, which was unlike anything he had ever done. “I design buildings. They’re static things, not dynamic things. But designing it was almost like designing a car.”
He nonetheless took up the challenge and set to work in January in his Sebastopol home workshop. Experimenting with designs and materials, he settled on a rounded rig he calls “The Turtle.”