Acoustiblok, Inc. has donated its NASA technology Thermablok® aerogel insulating strips for installation in a 1951 Spartan trailer which is being renovated and used to sponsor a youth architecture program in the blighted Valle del Oro neighborhood of Santa Clarita.
The “Trailer Trash” project, now part of the ever-growing California Institute of the Arts’ NOMAD LAB, is the brainchild of Sam Breen, who purchased the run-down, 30-foot trailer to refurbish as a home for his Mother Lydia, a displaced Hurricane Katrina evacuee.
In October, 2010, Breen – then a 27-year-old graduate student at CalArts – sought permission to park the trailer on the school’s Valencia, California campus while he began gutting and preparing it for restoration. The trailer earned instant celebrity as Breen and other students utilized the Spartan as an on- and off-campus mobile performance space, make-shift classroom, and screening room used to explore how displacement and artistry go hand-in-hand.
“The notion of displacement is one that my mother and I are all too familiar with,” Breen said. “As I began my studies in art school it became clear to me: all artists are, at one time or another, displaced.”
Evelyn Serrano, a member of CalArt’s faculty, saw the potential for Breen’s trailer to be used in the NOMAD LAB, a program based in the nearby crime-riddled Valle del Oro neighborhood of Santa Clarita, which brings the Arts and other programs and activities to youths and families living in the gang- and crime-infested community. Breen brings the trailer to the Valle del Oro community periodically to be used as part of the NOMAD LAB’s architectural workshop.
“The youths have been learning about basic architecture principles, and as part of the architecture process they investigate the meaning of ‘home’ and ‘community’ in a neighborhood that is challenged by rising gang violence and drug trade,” Serrano said.
The trailer also serves as an exhibition and screening space for the youths’ films and artwork. The next step is to lead workshops on “green” architecture and home building topics, including insulation, for the community’s young people.
In August, Breen installed the Thermablok aerogel insulation strips to the gutted Spartan as the first part of the “Trailer Trash” project’s thorough refurbishment using safe, clean, and renewable materials. Valle del Oro youths will learn about green insulating materials in the process, as they participate in the trailer’s renovation.
“It is always a privilege to be a part of a program that helps young people learn more about sustainable building materials like Thermablok,” said Lahnie Johnson, founder and president of Thermablok and its parent company, Acoustiblok, Inc.
“To be able to donate our Thermablok aerogel strips for use in a NOMAD LAB project is particularly exciting, since it targets children and families who live in conditions that harbor poverty and crime,” Johnson said. “This is a perfect example of how small businesses can do their part in educating and providing a better future for children and families stuck in some of America’s harshest communities.”