Copyright 2010 Julia Vallera
All Rights Reserved
A thesis submitted to the faculty of Parsons The New School for Design, in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Fine Arts in Design and Technology
Anezka Sebek, Barbara Morris Thesis Studio, Spring 2010,
Cynthia Lawson, Andrew Zornoza Thesis Studio, Fall 2009
Advisors: Cynthia Lawson, Thomas Bosket
Thesis production website:
Special thanks to:
M.O.N.H moveable museum
that travels to different neighborhoods
Col or Wheels is a custom designed van dings.
ors to reflect on the color of their surroun
York City. It is a playful environment for visit inside
ro shapes and projected images fill the
Col or puzzles, neon wire, word charts, velc ated
ide. These colorful objects are manipul
of the van. Decals and magnets cover the outs it aims
around them. As a mobile installation
by visitors to represent the color they see possible.
r usage in as many communities as
to reco rd differences and similarities of colo
Abstract for EDUlearn, Bacelona Spain
COLOR WHEELZ: A MOBILE EMPORIUM FOR COLOR EXPLORATION
Julia R. Vallera
Parsons The Newschool for School of Design (USA)
Once a year the circus comes to town. It unfolds into a magical display of light and color. The
quiet, motionless land instantly transforms into a vibrant playground filled with curious people.
Excitement spills into the air spontaneously as visual imprints form life memories for all ages.
Humans have a rich history in traveling entrepreneurship. Gypsies, circus acts, magicians
and inventors are a few examples of people that have historical roots in nomadic livelihoods.
In New York City (NYC), an increasing number of commercial, political, artistic and educational
enterprises are outreaching to communities through mobile venues. Carts, trucks and vans selling
goods can be found on almost every street corner. The purpose and size of a mobile venue
vary depending on what its intention is. In every case, there is a primary objective to reach a
larger, more diverse group of people. These examples serve as inspiration for the development
of this color laboratory on wheels with accompanying website http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/
Color Wheelz is designed to transform a 1997 Ford van into a traveling, participatory installation.
This van travels through the five boroughs of NYC filled with playful activities, which facilitate
exploration into the world of color. Visitors create colorful patterns and designs that represent
their current environment. Each participant manipulates an array of color related items. These
items may include glowing neon wire, cling paper, velcro shapes, magnets and projections. They
turn on neon wire, cut shapes out of cling paper and apply velcro to the seats and walls. Colorful
images can also be projected onto the interior. Changing the appearance of the van is a fun way
for participants to contribute their personal interpretation. Color Wheelz combines mobility, color
theory and hands-on activities to create a unique experience that results in a mobile, color emporium.
Interaction with Color Wheelz occurs inside and outside of the van. Up to 4 participants can
be inside and up to 10 participants can be outside anytime. The van stays in one location
all day while participants customize its appearance. They are asked to consider the color
of the architecture, people and nature that surrounds them. This consideration is a unique
opportunity for people to think about their surroundings in a visual way, which results in a
colorful commentary on the neighborhoods of New York City. Results are documented through
photographs, video, interviews and voice recordings. The event is publicized and published on
the official website http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/ A map is updated on the website and on a
twitter account so that people can find the location of Color Wheelz at any point during the day.
Color Wheelz creates a fun and engaging way for visitors to explore the colors in their world.
The opportunity to interpret a neighborhood through color initiates critical analysis about
how and why color influences culture, race and geography. Sharing in this experience brings
people together on a common ground at which time they may exchange stories, ideas and
knowlege. Perhaps this exploration will encourage additional insight into how color relates
to communication and perception. Tracking the outcomes in each location is an ongoing
effort and will result in a valuable collection of color related stories and art, which contribute
to the topic of color perception in a variety of ways. Continuing these endeavors excite me
and I am confident that they will inspire new ideas and curiosity about the world of color.
Keywords: art, education, color theory, mobility, public art, community, documentation,
Categories: Pedagogical Innovations in Education, Learning and Teaching Methodologies,
Evaluation and Assessment of Student Learning, New Learning/Teaching Models, Language
Learning, Innovations Collaborative and Problem-based Learning, Tutoring and Coaching
Table of Contents
Copyright Page 1
Thank you 3
Abstract for EDUlearn, Bacelona Spain 5, 6
Table of Contents 7
Part One Research 9
1.1 Mobility 10-13
1.1.1 Interview with Russel Taragan 11
1.2 Public Art 14
1.3 Participatory Art and Education 15,16
1.4 Color Perception 17-22
1.4.1 Interview with Carl Minchew 19
Part Two Concept development 23,24
2.1 Audience 25
2.2 Design Questions 26
Part Three Methodology 27-28
Part Four Evaluation 29-35
Part Five Legend 36, 37
I spent the summer of 2008 searching for a project that I would spend the next and last
year of my MFA thesis working on. Previous interests and lots of research sent me in
many different directions. So many directions that I spent most of the summer confused
about how I could possibly choose one thing to focus on for an entire school year.
Sitting on a sun soaked bench Alajuelo, Costa Rica, with mangos sprinkling the
ground like raindrops, I decided my thesis would be. I was on a 10 hour layover
there, on my way to Peru. It was July 31, only a month before school was to begin.
My first protoype was done in Peru. I spent the 10 days I was there documenting
color I saw along my travels. Choosing color as the basis for my thesis
research was an exciting decision, but still left me with many directions to go in.
The following document includes notes, prototypes, writing, interviews, user tests and
images of the process leading up to the production of Color Wheelz. It is broken up into
four parts; research, developement, methodology and evaluation. Each part describes
important milestones over the course of the nine months I spent working on the project.
Out of this process came Color Wheelz. A project I am proud to write this
paper about and one that I hope to share with many more people in the future.
From first Prototype:
Mobile museums, public art, participatory art and color perception are four areas of research that
inspired me to take new, unexpected directions throughout my design process. The content of each
area lead me to develop a strong foundation for the development of Color Wheelz. Within these research
topics I have referenced several precedents influencial to this project. Precedents include examples
of existing organizations, artists, museums, galleries, books, websites, and industry professionals.
Key figures central to the research of this project were Thomas Bosket, Pamela Klein, Cynthia
Lawson, Anezka Sebek, Andrew Zornoza, Barbara Morris, Alan Gilchrest, Carl Minchew,
and Russel Taragan. Their generous feedback was very insightful and greatly appreciated.
Pre-made materials for inside Color
Wheelz: “Painted Linoleum”
Mobile defines something that is “Capable of moving or of being moved readily from place
to place”  Museum defines “A building, place, or institution devoted to the acquisition,
conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific,
historical, or artistic value.”  Mobile museums are a combination of both characteristics.
The following examples are existing projects which demonstrate how this combination
succeeds in reaching many people, how it benefits from a simple and fast interface
and how a mobile museum is customizable based on the needs of the audience.
Ally Reeves is an artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. She began a project in 2007 called The Mobile
Fig. 1 Ally Reeves, Museum (Fig.1). She describes it as “A human powered, bicycle transported and open content.
Mobile Museum, It is a means to display and input open content information. You take the cart, you share
Pittsburgh, PA. the artwork or invention, you pass on the idea that others can do the same!”  In this case
mobility is created using a bike cart, which is customizable and can be viewed by many people.
Another example is a project called Class C (Fig 2), by Ruben Ochoa. This California based
artist transformed his families taco truck into a mobile art gallery. The gallery is complete with
an office and show-room. His intention in developing this project was to “parallel a system
(referring to an art gallery system), but take it into another direction, a moveable direction”.
 He states that the van “takes away the magic behind the workings of a gallery and makes
Fig 2. Ruben Ochoa, it all open and there for anyone to see”.  Exposing the administrative side of how a gallery
Class C, San Francisco,
functions is more obvious given the limitations of the space inside the van. This visibility educates
people about art and design as a business so they can begin to relate to it in a different way.
SF Mobile Museum (Fig 3) is a mobile museum in San Francisco, CA. “Looking for Loci” is
a current exhibit that is created entirely by participants. Thirtyseven people were given a
cardboard box of exactly the same dimensions and asked to create a diorama inside of it that
represents the spirit of a place they think is special. The boxes were exhibited in various public
settings. Each participant created different solutions to the same question. The successful way
in which “Looking for Loci” was collected and publicly displayed is inspiration for Color Wheelz.
One of the educational programs at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC is a mobile
museum project called The Moveable Museum (Fig 4&5). This project is comprised of three
Fig 3. San Francisco different trucks that showcase different topics, which include anthropology, astronomy and
Mobile Museum, paleontology. Each truck is designed specifically to its theme. I arranged a meeting with one
“Looking for Loci” San
of the educators, who gave me a tour of the Paleontology and Astrology trucks. During the
meeting I gained valuable information related to how The Moveable Museums are designed,
how they are used and how people interact with them. Questions that I got particularly
helpful feedback from are listed in the sub-section below, along with summarized answers.
1.1.1 Interview with Russel Taragan from M.O.N.H Moveable Museum:
1. When was the first museum created and who is respnsible for the design of the truck?
Fig. 4 M.O.N.H
Moveable Museum, The first truck was created in 1993, but there were mobile musuems associated with the
“Moveable Universe” museum since the 50’s. They use to drive around in trucks/cars with artifacts to different parts
of NY. It takes about 2 years to make one museum. The educators are mostly responsible for
the design within the museum. Scientist play a big role as well.
2. How much time do Kids spend in the truck? Is there additional activities they do
after leaving the truck?
We visit schools and get every class for one hour. Half an hour is spent in the truck,
the other half hour is spent in the classroom with slides and lectures. They often want
to spend more time in the truck, but can’t because the next class has to come in.
Teachers usually do follow up activities with the students in relation to what they did in
3. Do you ever open the truck to the public? If so are people interested?
Yes. We visit summer camps, community events and street fairs. We let 15 or fewer
Fig 5 M.O.N.H Moveable
Museum, “Moveable people in the truck at one time. They are very interested. They interact with the
Universe” NYC, NY. stations that have buttons first, then move around to other parts.
4. Is there a linear way people have to get the most out of the museum? If so, do
people follow it?
Almost everyone goes to the infared camera first. The truck is designed so people
move counter clockwise, but it is not essential that has to happen. The students
get worksheets that direct them from station to station, which forces them to move
through the exhibit linearly. The public moves around randomly and does not spend
as much time reading every panel.
5. What role do the educators play in the overall experience?
The educators do presentations in the classrooms with slides and artifacts. They are
in the truck as well, but leave the students to find things on their own unless they need
help. The educators are mostly all scientists. They did not get degrees in teaching.
6. Is there more success educating students with a mobile museum than there is in a
The benefit of the moveable museum is that it is a smaller scale. There is less success in
the MONH with educating students because there is much more to see and do. Students can
focus easier in the moveable museum. We can customize the moveable museum experience
Fig 6. Parts and Labor to fit the need of the audience. Sometimes we visit special populations and we can adjust any
Gallery, New York, NY. part of the experience to the population. Many times teachers will warn us of a difficult child,
but most of the time the student is well behaved in the truck. THe new learning environment
creates a new perspective. Education is a challenge the large museum is always struggling
with because there it is so big, but the moveable museum isolates sections of the bigger
Fig 7. Worlds Largest Other mobile projects I found in my research include Truck art gallery , Parts and Labor (Fig 6),
Things, Inc. Worlds Largest things, Inc. (Fig 7), Black History 101 mobile museum, Karaoke Ice and Brooklyn
Mobile Library. In all of these examples mobility is an important quality that contribute to the success
of each project. Most of them require user participation and in several, learning is the main objective.
Pre-made materials and
material bin for Color Wheelz:
“Fabric, magnet and cardboard
color pieces. 13
As a visual artist I continually think about how to adapt the traditional art gallery setting into
one that is more accesable by the general public. It is an effort I refer to as taking art out of the
gallery and into the streets. Jack Becker, Executative editor of Public Art Review defines Public
art as “something that was easily defined as recently as the 1960s — what I refer to as the
four M’s: Murals, Monuments, Memorials and Mimes.” He states that “More experimentation
between and among artists and audiences will yield more effective means of delivering creative
expressions or social messages with greater emotional impact and cost effectiveness.”
The benefits public works of art have on community are numerous. One benefit that is central to
the mission of Color Wheelz is that the stories of participants are captured through the hands-on
interaction that occur. In some examples of public art, paticipants also benefit from an interaction
with the artist. Patricia C. Phillips, a professor of art at the State University of New York, New Paltz
Pre-made materials for inside
and editor-in-chief of Art Journal explains that “public art does suggest its own particular model
Color Wheelz: Velcro walls
and shapes for thinking about the way all art functions—as a dynamic exchange of invention, production,
delivery, reception, and action rather than a stable collection of formal characteristics. In its
many manifestations, it questions what occurs—and changes—when people encounter and
experience art. In both subtle and radical ways, public art shifts critical analysis to the responses
of viewers who shape, modify, perpetuate, and complete (at least provisionally) its meaning.” 
Color Wheelz is a public exhibition that is shaped by the people that participate with it. Drawing from
characteristics defined as public art, it intends to strengthen every community it visits. This goal
is most accurately described in the the words of Lily Yeh, a dedicated artist who spent her career
as a public art entrepaneaur. In documentation about her career she wrote “We need to focus on
building compassionate communities where people have a strong relationship with each other
and are genuinely concerned for the welfare of all. Art and culture can function as powerful tools
to connect people, strengthen family ties, preserve cultural heritage and build community.”  14
Participatory Art and Education
Color Wheelz includes visitors in a process of interpreting color and making art, therefore it can
be described as a participatory art project. Participatory Art is a common and successful way
to initiate learning. It is defined by Suzana Milevska as, “activation of certain relations that is
initiated and directed by the artists and often encouraged by art institutions, and that sometimes
becomes the sole goal of certain art projects. While inviting the audience to actively participate,
the artists of the participatory projects create certain interfaces that are well prepared in advance
and highly contextualised in a certain social, cultural and political environment.”
Fig. 8. Julio Leparc, The
Gaming Room, Paris,
France. She further states that it is important to “differentiate between participatory art practices and
the much broader term “interaction”, wherein the relations established between the members
of the audience or between them and the art objects are much more passive and formal.”
Developing Color Wheelz as a participatory art project lead it to become a social environment that
is educational and fun. Visitors to Color Wheelz have a shared experience while they exchange
stories, ideas and information about color they see around them. From this exchange they learn
from one another while they create a peice of art that expresses their personal message.
In an article written about Education and Arts Participation, the authors write that “If we are able
to understand the independent contributions of arts-related socialization and general education
level to current arts-related participation, we will be better equipped to identify and implement
policies and programs designed to induce a higher level of adult participation in the arts”
Fig. 9. Julio Leparc, The I relate closely to this statement because of the experience I’ve had creating Color Wheelz.
Gaming Room, Paris,
Organising a project with such a high level of visitor participation has given me experience in
this area and in turn has been very informative in how and what makes participation with an art
Reasons why people participate in the arts are many. According to authors Kevin F.
McCarthy and Kimberly Jinnett the most important are; “Personal interest in the material itself,
opportunity for social interaction, interest in learning more about the arts and accompanying
a friend or family member” These reasons for participation were influential in designing the
structure of the Color Wheelz experience. An experience which is built on social engagement.
Fig. 10. Olafur Eliasson, Visitors participate in a social setting and are interested doing so because they can engage
The Weather Project, in a hands on, art related activity. In the case of Color Wheelz, if they are not already with
London, England. friends or family visitors often call and text in an attempt to get them to come by and participate.
There are many examples of successful participatory art projects, some of which began decades
ago. Julio Leparc is an Argentinean artist that developed numerous participatory art exhibits
throughout his career. In 1964 he developed one such exhibit called “The Game Room”(Fig 8&9).
This was a series of participatory installations incorporating sight, touch and sound. In a summary
about the exhibit he states that “The participation of the viewer was not limited by a switch. The
surprise prorogued a melting in his traditional attitude, generally with more respect towards Art,
and forced him to keep his distance here, there was a familiarity between the ensemble of the
Fig. 11. Usman Hague,
movement-surprise and the viewer, which enabled him to have an active and multiple behaviour”.
England.  Other artists such as Olafur Eliason (Fig 10), David Byrne and Usman Haque(Fig 11) frequently
design participatory art exhibits. Their work, along with many others inspired the mission of Color
Wheelz to include participatory activities that facilitates learning through exploration and play.
Testing materials in and on
Color is a timeless subject of study that relates to many fields including technology, society,
psychology, marketing, geography and more. Isaac Newton published the first color wheel (Fig12)
in 1706, which triggered centuries of scientific, philosophical and artistic study in the field of
color. The resulting accumulation of work contributes to a vast body of color related discoveries,
which have inspired a mystical and spiritual connection between humans and color. In a letter
Fig. 12 History of The to Wilhelm von Humbolt (philospher) in 1798, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (philosopher and
Color Wheel, “Newtonian scientist) explained that by embarking on his book, “History of the Theory of Colours” he had
inspired Color Wheel” also hoped to create a “History of the Human Spirit in Miniature” .
Contextualization of color varies in every field. For example, in design color affects composition,
space, form and texture. In technology color leads to breakthroughs in digital imagery, color
processing and hardware. Color identifies gender, social status and age differently across many
cultures. It influences psychological and physiological assessment. Geography, biology, and
marketing are just a few examples of fields affected by color.
Josef Albers is known for his groundbreaking work with color at the Bauhaus. He spent most
of his life teaching his students relativity of color and how its unpredictability is what makes it so
important to study. He wrote, “Until one has the experience of knowing that he is being fooled by
color, one cannot be expected to be very careful to look at things inquiringly.”  His theories
and teachings still remain the foundation for most color theory courses in art and design schools
across the world.
Fig. 13 Alan Gilchrist,
“Seeing Black and
White”, Newark, NJ.
On November 23, 2009 I had the pleasure of being able to meet Alan Gilchrest, a Professor
and Author at Rutgers University. Alan Gilchrest has written several books and articles about
his studies on the visual system and how humans perceive value differences. One in particular,
Seeing Black and White (Fig 13 & 14) was very informative to the development of Color Wheelz.
Professor Gilchrest was very generous with his time and introduced me to several of his
Fig 14. Adelson’s
perception tests and shared essential information about how the human visual system responds
”Seeing Black and to light and value. One of several topics in his book is about “the perception of surface color,
White” which is the property of an object. It is not about the perception of light. This is implied by the
word “black” in the title. Only a surface can be black; light is not black. We will be considering
the perception of objective properties of the real, everyday world, not isolated patches of light in
a dark laboratory.” 
September 2009 research:
I tested how people relate to
various colors through sight,
sound and taste.
Carl Minchew is the Director of Color Technology at Benjamin Moore & Co. (Fig 15) In November
2009 I arranged an email interview with him in regard to the experience he has working with color
and color mixing. At that time Color Wheelz was still in research phase. His responses helped
guide me to the next stages of development. Questions are listed in the sub-section below, along
with summarized answers.
Fig 15. Benjamin
Moore Color display Color Wheelz aims to address how color defines who we are. Through worksheets and
Ticonderoga, NY conversation, it asks subjective questions like: What color are the buildings that surround you?
What color is the food? What color are the people? and What color is the nature? Differences in
the way visitors respond will initiate critical thinking about how color is an everyday occurrence
that affect how we perceive the communities we live in. Through color it aims to draw results
that may help analyze the demographics of each community it visits. It also aims to find out if a
community can be defined and how a project like this may empower participants to feel that they
are part of a community.
1.4.1 Interview with Carl Minchew from Benjamin Moore & Co.:
1. Do you conduct customer surveys or research groups to find out what colors are most popular
We do. We track sales and we also participate in color associations such as Color Marketing
Group (CMG) and forcasting services.
2. How do you train employees to talk about color mixing? Do they get training on how light
affects pigment? If so, how do you train them?
October 19 2009: Thomas Bosket and I presented this one day event with Parts and Labor gallery
called Exploring Perception. People used materials to depict the color of something they were
looking at while their sight or hearing was skewed. 60 people participated. The results directed
me in new directions for Color Wheelz. See images that follow:
Training depends on the job. For most, training is focused on the best way to produce durable,
reliable colors including best practices for matching colors. The importance of lighting is always
discussed, especially the importance of using consistent quality lighting for color matching.
3. To what extent does color and psychology define what colors you choose to create/market?
For example, with the economy doing poorly are you developing color palettes that might be
more uplifting, calming, neutral, etc.....?
Yes the general mood and changes in taste are very important considerations. But, usually we
are not trying to drive opinion but to reflect what will make customers most comfortable. This
includes elements of style as well as traditional color choices tempered with the “mood of the
4. Do you develop different colors to be sold in different areas within the united states? If so,
what areas get what colors and why?
There are many factors including climate, construction style and materials and the nature of the
community that affect color usage. It is difficult to generalize what drives this. When we think of
South Florida and the Caribbean we often think of bright chromatic colors blazing the the sun.
But in the sunny Southwest we see more adobe and earth-tones. Elsewhere in the Southeast
we see a lot of white and light pastels. We try to make sure that we have the colors that will be
desired for every geography but we don’t usually limit our color offerings--if you want Newport
Blue in Atlanta we say “why not!”
5. In developing new hues, do you always start with the same basic ingredients or do you start
with a color that is already created ? Do you start with a theme or concept?
It depends. New colors usually begin with a concept and often as a collection. The most recent
new collection, Affinity, was built around the concept of a livable, harmonious palette that includes
modern updates to our Historical Colors. It has been extremely successful because the entire
collection is true to the idea and it includes great colors! Over many years we have found that
colors with a medium chroma, not too bright and not too dull, are the most livable. Within that
range we can create a full palette of hues. For most colors the fundamental mixture is oxide
yellow, oxide red and black--an amazing variety of colors can be created with this combination.
Of course we use more chromatic pigments too such as blue, green, yellow, orange and red--
they are indispensable in creating a full palette.
6. Do you test new colors under different lighting before marketing it? IF so, what types of light
do you test under?
Color is light so we have to be very deliberate about lighting. In fact there is a major transition
under way that will eventually replace traditional incandescent lamps with either florescent or,
eventually, LEDs. We use standard light sources like D-65 Daylight as well as a proprietary
Benjamin Moore Daylight that we find very effective. The key is to be consistent when you create
and evaluate colors and to understand where the color will be used.
7. Is there a certain color wheel/color system (Itten, Munsell, Goethe, etc....) that you use as a
foundation for color mixing or does BM have one of there own?
We use a variety of systems as a reference. From a technical perspective we don’t often need
the color wheel since we are dealing with well established tinting rules and fundamental color
reflectance values. From a design perspective we use Munsell and NCS most frequently.
Images to the left from Prototype October 19 2009: Exploring Perception 21
8. Is there an effort to replicate color in nature, fabric, or food? If so, do you ever
borrow the chemical breakdown of anything to find out what is creating that color?
Color in nature is a fascinating subject. It ranges from relatively temporary colors like a leaf
or butterfly wing to more permanent color such as minerals, gems and rocks. And, of course,
there are the colors of sunsets, sunrises and rainbows. Many of the pigments we use are
chemically similar to naturally occurring minerals, particularly iron oxides and carbon black. For
brighter colors we use synthetic pigments that mimic, but are not identical to, natural colors.
Inspired by a Sol Lewitt exhibit
at Dia Beacon, I created this
Prototype for storytelling through
color. I would conduct tests on
how sight, sound, taste and
smell were affected by color.
After the testing was complete
each participant would have a
unique color map.
Color can cause physical discomfort or put our minds at ease. It is a powerful form of communication
on a local and global scale. Astrology, politics, ecology, design, psychology and education are a
few areas largely influenced by color.
In 2003 the United Nations reported that food rations distributed in Iraq by U.S. - led coalition
forces were “wrapped in the same yellow packaging as deadly so-called bomblets being
airdropped by the coalition” . This simple oversight in color usage put the lives of hundreds
Fig 16. ABC “Bomblets” of civilians in danger of mistaking food rations for explosives. (Fig 16)
Climate change is transforming the colors of the earth. One of the largest ice caps in the world,
on Mount Kilimanjaro is melting causing the topographical landscape to change from a large
white area to dark brown and green one . (Fig 17)
Fig 17. Mount
Kilimanjaro Symbols and signs we follow on a daily basis are color coded and are embedded into our
thinking. The U.S.A’s terror alert system is a good example. Red is the highest level warning
and green is the least. The designation of certain colors to “levels” of danger is an interesting
parallel, not to mention what colors were chosen and why. (Fig 18)
These are a few examples of the frequency in which color plays a role in everyday life. I am
interested in how these daily colors change from person to person and from place to place. I
wonder why and in what ways people associate color to culture, location and memory. Gathering
feedback from individuals that participate in Color Wheelz is a way for me to find answers to my
Fig 18. United States
The mobility of this project provides an opportunity to reach a large, diverse audience. Drawing participants through playful
and experimental activities is very important to the success of the project. I hope to expand the project so that it may
travel to more cities. Taking Color Wheelz to different geographical locations is appealing to me because it allows me to
analyze participant results on a larger scale. Results and feedback from participants are archived and published on http://
coloriumlaboratorium.com/ so people can follow the progress of the project.
Framing the concept of this project was a challenge in the beginning stages. Joshua Porter and Joshua Brewer are
collaborating designers that work extensively the field of user experience. Commenting on their role as designers in
creating the framework in which peole experience the world, they write “We make frames. In places both private and
public, social and seperate, consumers are navigating frameworks that we put forth. We’re no longer telling the whole
story, createing the whole experience for our users, we’re suggesting it. We’re not rulemakers, we’re makers of frames,
wherever those frames happen. Stalwart as ever in vision, we set loose boundaries, and give over part of the product to
our audience, giving way to new stories and behaviors.” Color Wheelz is a framework in which to view New York City.
It guides visitor participation in a way that is directly related to observation, but still open for personal interpretation.
From experience as a visual artist and a color theory teacher I find that color is a term that everyone understands and one
which is easy to identify visually and verbally. I am inspired by what this project brings to each community I visit. The van
is a blank canvas for the application of color, which is a vehicle for people to learn about each other and about themselves.
Color Wheelz empowers participants to create meaningful artwork that many of them didn’t think they could or never
thought they would. I am pleased by what I have learned about creating this participatory art environment and know that it
will inform my work in the future. Through Color Wheelz, I hope that people are able to see things they never saw before
by looking at color in a new way.
Audience and Setting
The Color Wheelz audience consists of people who enjoy hands-on activities, people interested in participatory
art and people interested in public installations. Within these categories, curators, artists, educators and
community arts practitioners make up a large majority. There is no specific target age for this project.
Participation from this audience is important for Color Wheelz because through them it can grow and evolve.
Sharing ideas in a fun and experimental way is a very important part of the project. Exploring innovative ways to
use the unique environment of Color Wheelz to visualize those ideas is essential. Visitors may use the materials
in whatever way that suits them. Some may collaborate to reinvent the space while others interact individually.
Audience participation differs in each neighborhood the van visits. In light of the huge population of NYC, cultural identity
in each community remains strong. The diversity of the population causes a unique audience in every location. This
uniqueness adds a valuable element to the project. One that makes each experience with Color Wheelz new and enlightening.
Color Wheelz does not change how it presents itself in each location. The activities stay the same, but the appearance changes
depending on how people manipulate the materials.
Color Wheelz primary question is to find out if color use varies from neighborhood
January 2010: Below is a
protoype I did over winter break. to neighborhood and if so how it t=ﬁrefox-a&i... used to define the culture of the people that live
I went on a road trip in someone http://maps.google.com/maps/m
Westcoast Color Map - Google down the west coast.
elses van sMap there. Through color it aims to draw results that may help analyze the demographics of
I brought materials with me and each community it visits. It also aims to find out if a community can be defined and how a
had people use them to interpret
the colors in every location we project like this may empower participants to feel that they are a part of a community. Lastly,
stopped in. At this early stage
the materials were magnets and Color Wheelz considers what makes a participatory installation compelling, memorable
window decals. See images and accessible and if a mobile environment has a different affect than a stationary one.
Westcoast Color Map
The methodology of this project has evolved greatly over the past 8 months, but the overall attempt to create a mobile color
emporium that generates visitor participation has continued to be the main priority. This project as been fulfilling for me in many
ways, but it is most fulfilling in that it brings people together to trade stories, exchange opinions and share in the same experience.
Originally, instructional sheets acted as a framework to guide visitors through the Color Wheelz experience. One sheet
directed them around the inside of the van, another sheet around the outside.(Fig 19&20) Both sheets listed three questions.
What things do you see around you? What color are those things? What shape are they? As they considered those questions,
each participant got an identical material kit to work with. The materials could be applied to any wall, window, floor or ceiling.
I decided to adjust the process so that instead of using sheets as a guide, the participant could follow instructions built into the
van itself. This lead me to segment the outside of the van into different parts (Fig 21). Vertically the van is broken up into sections
by neighborhood. Horizontally the space is broken up into three categories, architecture, people and nature. The back and inside
are designated for free expression. I chose the categories of architecture, people and nature because I felt they were the most
immediately visible things surrounding the van for people to look at and gave people just enough direction to begin selecting color.
Fig 19. Color Wheelz, “Instrucional Fig 20. Color Wheelz, “Participant Fig 22. Color Wheelz, “Taking
Sheet for Outside”, NYC, NY. with sheet”, NYC, NY. out signs”, NYC, NY.
Fig 23. Color Wheelz, “Explaining to
Red Hook Upper West Side Williamsburg Astoria Your Color
Fig 24. Color Wheelz, “Girl Fig 21. Color Wheelz, “Design Grid”, NYC.
with the van”, NYC.
Locations are chosen based on parking, foot traffic and what day of the week it is. For example, I need to be parked
somewhere with enough room to set my table up on the sidewalk so people have space to work. Different areas of
New York are busier than others and have various parking rules so choosing a location is a strategic and often
spontaneous process. Once I am parked, I stay in the location for the whole day and do not visit the same location twice.
When I arrive at a location I begin by setting up. I take out my signs, fold up table, material bins and put on my apron.
As people pass by I say hello (Fig 22&23). If they show interest I ask if they want to help me decorate my van. If they
say no, I kindly let them know that I will be there all day and if they happen to come back I would be happy to explain
the project. Many people come up to me and ask me what is going on. I explain how I travel to different neighborhoods
so that people can contribute color that they think represents the neighborhood. I may elaborate on the reasons for this
or ask if they would like to contribute some color. I say that it takes 5 minutes and I will help them if they like. Most
people that stick around that long agree to do it. Participation lasts for a little as 10 minutes to as long as 2 hours.
I walk visitors through the process. I show them the material bins. show them which section to apply the color in and tell
them that if they think of a color they cannot find I can most likely find it for them. If it is not too busy I offer to work with
them. Soon after that, people start to gather or call their friends and family to come see “this girl with a van” (Fig 24).
Originally I thought participants within the same neighborhood would identify the same color as one another. As a result, I thought
each neighborhood section of the van could be identified by color and would serve as a color map of the local culture in each
community (Fig 25). Once I began visiting the neighborhoods I found that was not the case. There was no similarity in the way
people chose color. Every participant had a personal and interesting choice of color. I immediately noticed that color directed people
in the same direction, but their unique observations resulted in very different interpretations of the surrounding color (Fig 26).
Red Hook Upper W Side Williamsburg Astoria
t u re
i te c
a rc h
Fig 25. Color Wheelz, “Assumed results”, NYC. Fig 26. Color Wheelz, “Actual results”, NYC.
Documentation is the most important part of this project. Each persons choice of color is unique. Sometimes it is a literal
depiction of something from the neighborhood and other times it is completely abstract (Fig. 27&28). Each piece on the
van represents an individual with a story. As the organizer, I can look at each one and remember why the person chose
the color they did, but is important for me as the facilitator to share the stories of the people that participate. Right
now documentation happens in video, photos and writing. Everything is categorized online. I plan to have digital sound
recorders built into the process so that people may contribute audio recordings in addition to their chosen color palettes.
Every community benefits differently from participating in Color Wheelz. In Crown Heights, Brooklyn it ended up being
unlike any other day for kids on St. Johns street (Fig. 29). Spending the whole day decorating a big colorful van left a
lasting impression. So much so, that on a different weekend, I was walking in one of the neighborhoods and one of the
kids recognized me and ran out to say hello. A life long resident and war veteran in Red Hook, Brooklyn came back a
second time to make sure I didn’t change his design (Fig. 30). In Astoria, Queens a woman created a design using the
deep blue color of the Mediterranean ocean to represent the neighborhoods prominent Greek culture and dull gray cubes
to represent what she thought were “ugly” new condos being built in the area (Fig. 31). A woman on the Upper West Side
thanked me for the opportunity because she was quitting smoking and in a horrible mood because of it, but the act of
doing something with her hands helped give her a happier perspective. In Williamsburg a timid young boy got to show
me what colors the inside and outside of his orthodox jewish family’s home were and a newly wed couple combined their
favorite colors into one symbolic design. There are many more examples of how Color Wheelz
has empowered people to create something that they didn’t know they could or never thought they
would. What each person gains from the experience is reflective of their unique needs and wants.
Fig 27. Color Wheelz, Fig 28. Color Wheelz, Fig 29. Color Wheelz, Fig 30. Color Wheelz, Fig 31.Color Wheelz,
“Literal depiction” Upper “ Abstract depiction”, “CrownHeights” “Red Hook”, Brooklyn, “Ugly Cement”, Astoria,
West Side, NYC. Williamsburg, NYC Brooklyn, NYC NYC Queens, NYC.
The following pages include a small portion of the work done by participants in and around Color Wheelz. Each example has
a brief description of what the participant told me about the colors they chose and why they chose them. I plan to continue
this project and hope to archive the work in a museum or NYC gallery. I would like to do this in other cities with other
vans so that perhaps more cities could have their own van to showcase as a representation of the people that live there.
1. Male, Early 20’s: A depiction of the Triboro Bridge from
Astoria Park in Queens, New York. The creator chose
yellow/tan to represent the “yellowish” color of the bridge
and blue for the Hudson River that flows beneath it.
2. Female, Early 30’s: A representation of the vari-
ous cultural representations living in Astoria, Queens.
These portraits include Greek(blue), Jewish(pink),
Hispanic(yellow) and one green person she was not sure
could be identified as anyone in particular.
3. Female, Mid 50’s: A combination of blue from the med-
iterranean ocean and the “ugly cement” condos being
constructed in Astoria, Queens. This participant “hates
all the gray cement.”
4. Two Females, 16-18: A collaboration between to
friends depicting “the strip”, which is a popular stretch of
road along the water where locals hang out. Two orange
and one yellow figure represent friends. Blue car signifi-
5. Female, 10: Self portrait of young participant. Blue
pants and purple shirt represent the clothes worn that
day. Felt color matched to true skin and hair color.
6. Female, Mid 20’s: Replication of logo for local bar in
the neighborhood that participant frequents on a weekly
7. Male, Early 40’s: A contribution to the personal ex-
pression part of Color Wheelz. He is an aspiring graphic
designer gave me a page of his sketchbook to tape on
the back. His message is “one love”.
8. Male, Early 30’s: Representation of Brooklyn Muse-
um. Participant was hesitant at first, unsure of his ability
as an artist. He chose yellow for the dome on top of the
museum and green for the surrounding trees.
7. 10. 9. Female, Late 30’s: An abstract portait of a person liv-
ing in Red Hook, Brooklyn who the participant ran into
right before participating. This person is described by the
creator as “outgoing, fun and brightly colored”.
10. Brothers, 6-8: A collaboration between to brothers
depicting the aprartment building they live in Crown
Heights, Brooklyn. The red building is the firehouse next
door to their yellow brick apartment building.
11. Female,11: I asked this young particpant what col-
ors represent the people of her neighborhood, Crown
Heights, Brooklyn. She responded with this american
12. Make, Late 60’s: This war veteran and life long resi-
dent of Red Hook, Brooklyn chose color that represents
the buildings of his neighborhood while he shared stories
about all the places he lived and worked. He came back
later that day to make sure I did not change his design.
13. Male, 15: Colors and shapes chosen as a represen-
tation of the architecture in the upper west side of Man-
hattan, NY. He decorated many parts of the van and was
very disappointed when his cousin made him leave.
14. Male, 15: Self portrait of participant with Dominican
flag. This participant took 20 minutes to figure out what
he wanted to make before starting this piece.
15. Female, late 30’s: This peice took an hour to create.
Participant wanted it to be 3D and chose yello, red, blue,
black and silver to represent the triborough bridge in As-
toria, Queens at night.
16. Femail, early 30’s: Blue represents her inner self,
orange represents her outer self. She always finds that
“reds and oranges are colors she wears and chooses
to be surrounded by”, but her emotions more resemple
blue, cool colors.
17. Female, mid 60’s: A depiction of people in the Upper
west side coming together. People are represented by
the color purple, sparkles represent the peoples magical
experience. This participant lives in India and was visit-
ing NY briefly.
18. Female, early 40’s: This participant is a make up art-
ist and wanted to represent central park in a “pretty” way.
Her favorite color is blue-green. Here she created a yel-
low, gray, black and blue depiction of central park on a
15. 18. blue green background.
19. Male, 7: White and tan represent the inside and out-
side of this particpants Orthodox Jewish family home in
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was hesitant and shy, but
very eager and curious to participate. His father trans-
lated my comments into Hebrew so he understood.
20. Male, early 20’s: Red, white and green used to repre-
sent the italian residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
21. Female, early 20’s: Bright red, pink, green and sil-
ver represent the colorful wall graffitti scattered all over
the walls in Williamsburg. The Dull tan background color
represents the vinal siding on houses commonly seen in
22. Female and Male, early 20’s: Collaboration between
couple representing the street they live on in Williams-
burg, Brookly. Every shape represents a different land-
mark (gray is deli, green is tree, yellow is light post, etc.).
20. 23. It is a map of their block.
23. Male, mid 20’s: A pile of colors represent the people
of williamsburg. The participant identifies the people in
the neighborhood to be “vibrant, unique and have bright
24. Females,18-20: Collaboration between two college
friends. Red, black, white and blue represent the violent,
“don’t ask-don’t tell” culture they experience in Harlem
NY. Yin & Yang symbol represents what they wish it
21. 24. could be.
Fig 1. Ally Reeves, “Mobile Museum”, Pittsburgh, PA. (http://themobilemuseum.com/).
Fig 2. Ruben Ochoa, “Class C”, San Francisco, CA. (http://www.hijadela.com/works/exhibits/exhibits.html)
Fig 3. San Francisco Mobile Museum,” Looking for Loci”, San Francisco, CA. (http://www.sfmobilemuseum.org/)
Fig 4. M.O.N.H Moveable Museum, “Moveable Universe”, NYC, NY. (http://www.amnh.org)
Fig 5. M.O.N.H Moveable Museum, “Moveable Universe”, NYC, NY. (http://www.amnh.org)
Fig 6. Parts and Labor Gallery, NYC, NY. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/atestofwill/2293117550/)
Fig 7. Worlds Largest Things,Inc. USA (http://www.worldslargestthings.com/)
Fig 8. Julio Leparc, Game Room, “Movement Suprises”, Paris, France. (http://www.julioleparc.org/)
Fig 9. Julio Leparc, Game Room, “Movement Suprises”, Paris, France. (http://www.julioleparc.org/)
Fig 10. Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, London, England. (http://www.olafureliasson.net/)
Fig 11. Usman Hague, Burble, London, England. (http://www.haque.co.uk/)
Fig 12. History of The Color Wheel, “Newtonian inspired Color Wheel”,(http://www.colourlovers.com/
Fig 13. Alan Gilchrist, “Seeing Black and White”, Newark, NJ. (http://psychology.rutgers.edu/~alan/)
Fig 14. Alan Gilchrist, “Seeing Black and White”, Newark, NJ. (http://psychology.rutgers.edu/~alan/)
Fig 15. Benjamin Moore Color display Ticonderoga, NY (http://www.adirondackcountrydecor.com/TiPaintRetail.
Fig 16. ABC “Bomblets” (http://www.abc.net.au)
Fig 17. Mount Kilimanjaro (http://chem11.proboards.com)
Fig 18. United States homeland security “Warning System” (http://www.dhs.gov)
Fig 19. Color Wheelz, “Instrucional Sheet for Outside”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 20. Color Wheelz, “Photograph of instructional sheet”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 21. Color Wheelz, “Design Grid”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 22. Color Wheelz, “Taking out signs”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 23. Color Wheelz, “Explaining to participants”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 24. Color Wheelz, “Girl with the van”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 25. Color Wheelz, “ Assumed results”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 26. Color Wheelz, “Actual Results, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 27. Color Wheelz, “Literal Depiction”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 28. Color Wheelz, “ Abstract Depiction”, NYC, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 29. Color Wheelz, “ Crown Heights”, Brooklyn, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 30. Color Wheelz, “ Red Hook”, Brooklyn, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)
Fig 31. Color Wheelz, “ Astoria”, Brooklyn, NY. (http://coloriumlaboratorium.com/)