Bunnies in a boat. A multi-colored forest. Big orange carrots. No, these aren’t hallucinations — they’re real manifestations of artists’ work, coming to an Asheville city bus near you.
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department recently announced that three local artists have been chosen to have their artwork appear on buses as part of the city’s first-ever “Art on Transit” bus art competition. Each artist will be awarded a $750 honorarium and their designs will grace the sides of a big bus.
The winners were Ray Noland’s “Jeweled Forest, a color-splashed, whimsical forest; Naomi Johnson’s photos of local food and farmers; and Nina Ruffini’s “Message” featuring bunnies adrift in boats.
A five-member jury, which included a bus driver, met in January and surveyed more than 60 submittals. The jury picked six finalists and suggested the three winners, which were unanimously confirmed by the city’s Public Art Board.
“The jury did a wonderful job and was thoughtful about each piece submitted,” said Diane Ruggerio, the city’s superintendent of cultural arts.
Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith, who attended a recent Public Art Board meeting to check out the winning pieces and who has pushed the use of public transit, said, “Great choices. I’m really excited about seeing them up and live.”
Will the art help boost bus ridership? It may, but that really wasn’t the point, according to Ruggerio.
“This was a public art project. We felt it was an innovative way to get public art out there, and for us to work with two-dimensional artists like photographers, painters and illustrators,” she said. “It’s really been a big collaboration.”
The city is contracting with a company to create “wraps” for three buses, at a cost of about $10,000. The arty buses should be on the streets by the first week of March, and will remain on display for at least four months, Ruggerio said.
The colorful buses will be seen all around Asheville because city buses aren’t assigned to specific routes. Ruggerio said she hopes that “Art on Transit” becomes an annual project.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor