Mat Bevel is the alter-ego of kinetic sculptor and performance artist Ned Schaper.
He says his work is sometimes difficult to categorize –it’s kinetic, it’s made from found objects, and it’s theater—but it’s made possible in large part by the fact that he’s been able to live and work in a warehouse near downtown Tucson.
“It was a unique situation because people found out that these warehouses were here,” says Schaper. “People knew the road was coming but it gave us time to create this ‘thing.’”
Schaper says that is a warehouse district where he and other artists have been able to create an ecosystem of creativity and ingenuity. However, downtown Tucson is undergoing myriad changes, including a new traffic route to make navigating the urban center easier.
It’s called Downtown Links, a four-lane roadway that will connect Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10. Its construction will lead to demolition of several old warehouses in the downtown arts district, including the long-time home of Schaper’s Museum of Kinetic Art.
“Yeah, it’s owned by the state,” says Schaper. “It took 25 years (but) in the end only two or three warehouses are getting knocked down.”
Schaper says his warehouse is one of the few scheduled for demolition, and in preparation for his departure he has created an “ark” that will help transport his menagerie to a new location. “I’ve always had the idea that I was building an ark,” says Schaper. “You know, taking something into the future.”
Schaper says he’s looking for a new studio and home for his creations, and he hopes to find space in South Tucson. He estimates he has about two months before he and his ark have to be completely out of downtown.