Jan 18, 201612:41 PMArt Beat

Brain Vessel

Jan 18, 2016 - 12:41 PM
Brain Vessel

Photography by Britt MacAulay

Forget the gallery of artwork from nationally recognized artists, ignore the nautically themed playing cards and “pea”-inspired cartoons, put aside the fascinating retail space complete with a walk-in art installation of mind-bending visuals, and Brain Vessel is, above all, a nascent collective of artists and big ideas.


The joint venture between businessman/artist Douglas Koozer and animator Jason Krieger was built on a number of Kickstarter campaigns focused, initially, on a 2006 project featuring comic characters for eventual mass production in plush form.


The intended trajectory may not sound far from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand, and fittingly, early realization of the endeavor eventually engaged Mark Freedman, the licensing agent behind the turtles.  While the project hit a few speed bumps along the way, the characters remain intriguing and vibrant.  Far from turtles, the pun-inspired “Gotta Pea” project featured little round characters living in a pea world, doing pea things, as anthropomorphic “pea-ple.”

Fast forward to today, and Koozer mans the Brain Vessel retail and gallery space on the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg.  He discusses the company’s vision with a frantic energy fueled by an otherworldly creative zeal.  The projects he is envisioning and on which he and his business partner have been embarking are far more broad than it seems even he may have expected.


Brain Vessel is one part branding firm and one part artistic collective.  The branding arm helps business owners fully realize their branding potential by completing the sensory experience with the intention of leaving a lasting impression on clients and customers.  They focus on the visual, tactile and olfactory experience through creative design and something called “sensory branding.”

Koozer’s clients have been, variously, McGrath’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Sheetz and the Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Agency, among others.  If the list of industries with which Brain Vessel has partnered seems varied, it all can be traced back to the company’s effective brain trust of creativity.  Their most recent partnership sells the PA Insurance Fraud’s story by targeting a younger audience with a cartoon weasel and sloth playing, respectively, villain and hero.


Alternately, Brain Vessel’s gallery space and product line hint at an even deeper recognition of Koozer’s interest in facilitating a healthy artistic community for its own sake.


While the space in Mechanicsburg only recently opened in early 2013, the company has been hard at work producing metal coins, nautically decorated playing cards lavishly produced in partnership with the card behemoth, Bicycle, and leather coin bags stamped with a captain’s wheel.  Sold to over 20 countries, it is surprising that Koozer and his business partner have been able to maintain sufficient focus on the other aspects of their diversified project, but they have, and with a seeming effortlessness.

Just stepping foot into the retail space, you’d have trouble arguing that Brain Vessel isn’t itself an art project.  The walls are lined with the fruits of labor of various scope; pumpkin faces peer at you from their display space, each carved from a recent workshop by the likes of pumpkin chunker “Fat Jimmy,” culinary teachers from York Technical Institute and a number of other participants.


A glass case houses octopus-sculpted card holders, playing-card boxes aligned in a quadtych showcasing the stunningly kinetic scene of a ship at sea, along with wallets, jewelry and other intriguing collectibles.


Further back, a plush Victorian sofa awaits under a skeleton of unfinished octopus tentacles.  Seated on the sofa, you face a large mystic-inspired painting of a body, a work of art by New York artist/musician Shawn Feeney.  The installation swarms with light and sound when you are seated there, an experiment in sensory experience, an otherworldly space of balance in the back corner of the small shop in Mechanicsburg.


By the time you read this, Brain Vessel will have completed its late-November Trunk Show, a show featuring artisans promoting local goods from Lancaster coffee, local crochet, pottery and jewelry.


You may have already missed the juried event and reception for the Seven Seas Collection on December 4 and 5.  If you did, you can still see the exhibition through January 15, 2016.  The winner of the juried event will have earned a show of their own in the Brain Vessel gallery, and he or she will also be the benefactor of Brain Vessel’s branding and marketing opportunities.


With so much fertile artistic verve, Koozer and company will likely pack the schedule with plenty of other experiential opportunities for businesses and artists alike.


Like their Facebook page, sign up for their email updates, visit the website (bvcargo.com) and join the conversation.

About This Blog

Art matters from a financial, cultural vibrancy and economic growth perspective, and ultimately it affects the quality of life for those with access to it. It's the visceral impact of the arts that hits hard and lingers long:  the way that an indelible image may worm its imprint into your eye and then mind and then dreams.  The forlorn droop of a melody, and the sign of resignation from a local trumpet player's final note. The unbearably gorgeous and aching silence of the final scene of a film shot in our region.  Every one of these offerings exists here in the midstate, and beats strong with art, and we must support it.


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