Guerilla-style art residency takes place inside Burbank IKEA

Hosted by

The 456,000-square-foot Burbank IKEA is the furniture giant’s largest location in the United States. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA is a good place to snag a shelf and kitchen towels for a new apartment or chow down on surprisingly delicious meatballs.

Now it’s also serving as a wellspring for artistic inspiration. A handful of artists are participating in a new, unofficial IKEA residency inside the company’s massive Burbank outpost. 

Launched over the summer, the residency pairs up participants from various creative backgrounds, so they can work on projects inspired by the store’s sprawling showrooms, Scandinavian design aesthetics, role in capitalism, and more. 

IKEA residents Leah Clancy and Michael Haight explore the showrooms on their first visit to the store. Photo courtesy of Mary Boo Anderson. 

“There's so much going on: either the beginnings of a new home, or maybe a bickering fight with a roommate or a loved one, or this idea of empowering yourself to make your own furniture,” says residency co-founder Mary Boo Anderson. “We thought it was an interesting place to make art.” 

During each season-long residency — which is now in its fall session — the pairs meet up in the store to work on their projects. 

Their pieces have ranged widely in both medium and execution so far, from dream reenactments in IKEA’s faux domestic spaces, to a zine that compiles interviews with the store’s customers and employees. 

Next spring, all of that work will be displayed at a gallery exhibition, but not inside IKEA, says Anderson. That’s because the Swedish company still has no idea this residency exists. 

“It’s very guerilla style,” she says. “We embrace the DIY.”

As part of their project, IKEA residents Sophie Lynn Morris and Thomas Macie purchased crayons and paper from IKEA and did texture rubbings of the cracks in the concrete of the warehouse. Photo courtesy of Mary Boo Anderson 

But she’s not too concerned about what would happen if the company did find out. 

“I feel like they're more likely to invite us in than not,” says Anderson. “Even if we're subverting the space of consumerism to hopefully create something a little more authentic, we are still partaking in their space … we're bringing people there, and we're having meals there. Maybe on some level, they appreciate that.”