While she has enjoyed mostly only good press and boundless popularity for her previous two iterations of The Museum of Ice Cream in NY and LA, the last few weeks since the opening of the San Francisco iteration has brought a bit more critical attention from the media to 25-year-old founder Maryellis Bunn. First there was Eater's discovery that not all local ice cream shops were comfortable with the "partner" model in which they donate thousands of dollars of product in exchange for brand exposure at the MoIC. Then you had Wired's take on the rise of "selfie factories" in which LA Times art critic Christoper Knight said that installations like this "aren't significant art exhibitions any more than a Chuck E. Cheese arcade." And now we have New York Magazine casting a fair bit of shade on Bunn in a new profile about her and the San Francisco MoIC.
Perhaps this is just part and parcel with opening anything new in San Francisco? We're a town that likes to say no to things, after all. But it's interesting that NY Mag didn't delve this deep when Bunn opened the original MoIC in New York last summer, and is only coming for her now that the Instagram-friendly "selfie factory" concept has proven to be an inarguable winner, and not just with Millennials (but mostly). By the way, the SF MoIC has already been extended through February, and remains sold out.
A few of the choice takeaways:
Though Bunn denies any talent for social media, her personal brand is on point, with a well-curated Instagram account of aspirational adventures: relaxing at an onsen, swinging in an ocean hammock in the Maldives. She is unnervingly millennial.
As a recent Parsons graduate living in the West Village, Bunn found the city’s existing institutions disappointing: They hadn’t adapted to larger cultural currents, she said, leaving little that would “engage and capture” her demographic.
On a recent afternoon [in San Francisco], a family of four, wearing plush birthday hats shaped like upside-down ice-cream cones and procured from Etsy, stood in the line that wrapped around the corner. “I hope you all die from this shit,” howled a man in fatigues as he zipped past on a scooter; the security guard, wearing an earpiece and a pink bow tie, didn’t blink.
“Ice cream is just a way to get people in the doors and feel safe,” Bunn said. “Then I have the opportunity to do anything.” On a recent visit to Disneyland, she was disheartened to find that the experience was nearly identical to the one she remembered from childhood. “To some, that’s nostalgia,” she said... [But, she said,] Millennials don’t have the attention span. “Our generation doesn’t want to spend six hours doing anything."
In the two hours that Bunn and I spent together, she neither laughed nor smiled. When I mentioned this, she was unsurprised. “That’s pretty accurate,” she said. “I’m not what most people would think would be the mind behind this. I’m hyperserious.”
Thinking further ahead, she would like to curate and host the inaugural party on Mars... But Bunn’s long game is even more ambitious than going to Mars. When I asked what her ultimate dream was, Bunn looked at me as if it were obvious. “I want to be the next Disney,” she said. “I could take all of those different installations that we just went through, and I could build them out into city blocks. It would be my Heaven. Could you imagine?”